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The skills shortage is one of the biggest issues facing the technical sector today. Across different industries, whether aviation, automotive, marine, or energy, businesses are struggling to attract and retain top talent.
Given these industries have generally offered security, competitive salaries, and rewarding work, why is there such a shortage of talent?
Why is there a skill shortage in technical industries
The main issue is a lack of widespread available talent in the first instance. As roles require more skill and expertise, the less people there are that are qualified for those roles. As competition rises, so do salary offers, meaning skilled workers have the incentive and security to change companies.
This means that there’s both a lack of new talent entering the workforce, and senior technicians and engineers are unlikely to stay at a company long enough to train or upskill junior workers, leaving a talent vacuum at both ends of the ladder.
This can be rectified by educating and bringing more people into the industry, but this kind of widespread change requires help from the government, as well as from schools and universities.
However, there are things businesses can do to proactively find, engage, and retain engineering talent.
Across the pandemic we’ve seen the aviation industry struggle due to a lack of staff, whether from furlough, illness, quarantine, or leaving the industry entirely. Given the instability of the industry over the last two years, it’s not hard to see why.
However, according to the International Civil Aviation Organisation, by 2026, we will need 480,000 new technicians to maintain the industry.
This leaves aviation companies with precious few senior engineers left to upskill new workers, and a lot of jobs to fill. A solution to this is more aggressive recruitment of new workers, combined with rigorous training and development while on the job.
Increased education and support for engineering students will help ease the talent shortage for every technical industry, but businesses can take the long view of looking at the potential of new talent and investing in them, instead of thinking only of what they can do today.
According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, staff turnover rose to more than 14% in 2020. Following on from this, the number of job vacancies rose by 40% in the first three months of 2022, to a five year high for the industry. As demand for roles increases, so does the salary, which is why the salary for vehicle technicians has risen by around 8% on average, year on year.
While raises in salary can help attract and retain workers, the Institute of the Motor Industry has warned that the automotive retail sector currently does not have the skills pipeline necessary to service and repair electric vehicles, calling on investment from the government to help contribute towards additional training.
As with all technical industries, more needs to be done to upskill existing workers, as they can then train and mentor new recruits.
One of the best ways for the marine industry to stay ahead of talent shortages is for businesses to identify the specialised talent they need, and when they need it. Marine-specific talent with experience are in high-demand, and can be difficult to source and scale when production calls for it, so knowing ahead of time when projects will be going live can save a headache later on.
A recruitment company that understands your needs can locate and supplement your current workforce, and is critical in today’s labour environment.
The energy crisis has shown how much could be solved if we developed more renewable energy infrastructure, prompting fresh interest from businesses, the government, and young engineering students. However, in the UK, the offshore wind sector alone requires 69,000 workers to reach the government’s 40 gigawatt target by 2030, leaving a large gap to be filled.
While new workers in traditional fossil fuels have been declining, there still aren’t enough new workers entering the renewable field, which is somewhat surprising considering how secure the long-term job prospects are.
This may be due to a lack of focused, secure contracts with the government. Plans should last for years or even decades, not months. This would encourage younger people to begin a career in energy, knowing that there will still be good job prospects when they are fully qualified.
The government has introduced a raft of new skill programmes for young people, but these largely rely on teachers securing placements themselves, on top of their already full schedules. Put simply, it isn’t enough to just offer new programmes, more must be done to raise awareness, and support those who express an interest.
Manufacturing businesses were struggling with a skills gap long before the pandemic: in 2015, manufacturers reported 35% of their positions were challenging to fill, this climbed to 46% last year, according to a study by Deloitte.
As with many of the industries listed above, one of the easiest ways to increase recruitment into engineering and manufacture is to offer an increased salary.
As engineers are often needed onsite, remote working or other perks aren’t always able to be offered, but a higher salary is always attractive no matter what the job may be.
Of course, beyond salary there are other areas the technical industry needs to address in order to fill the skills gap.
Firstly, there needs to be more awareness and guidance for early career professionals and young people about careers in the industry, and secondly, employers need to invest in education and upskilling to retain skilled professionals and create the next generation of industry experts.
While industry leaders are of course devoting time and resources to combatting the skills gap by training the next generation of tech experts, there also needs to be consideration for how the skills gap presents itself right now.
Providing training for existing professionals is a good start, but business leaders also need to consider the transferable skills of those outside the tech industry.
These skills provide unique problem-solving skills, which is well-suited to a rapidly evolving industry. Tech moves quickly, and with most young people being digital natives, or working in adjacent fields, it can be worth utilising their perspectives for technical roles.
Candidates with varied or non-traditional engineering backgrounds may not just provide the necessary labour the industry is seeking, it may even help improve processes, increase efficiency, and help propel businesses forward. Specialised technical recruitment is one of the best ways you can find new workers outside the established talent pool of your industry.
The skills gap is not unsolvable, it simply requires industry leaders to adopt new solutions to this old problem.
For help finding top talent, contact us today.