Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

By 2015 We Could Be Short of 13,000 Engineers; Issue of the Week

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

By 2015 We Could Be Short of 13,000 Engineers; Issue of the Week

Article excerpt

A RECENT debate on skills at the Riverside Stadium painted a gloomy picture of the future for engineering and the process sector in the region.

It addressed looming skills shortages, as highlighted in a report carried out by the Skills and Education Engagement Team for the Wilton-based North East Process Industries Cluster (NEPIC).

During a recent visit to Teesside, Trade and Investment Minister Lord Digby Jones also stressed skills shortages needed to be addressed, if the sector is to make the most of future expansion.

And he admitted more could be done by both government and industry.

Lord Jones' view is shared by Peter Collins, North-east manager for the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE).

He believes businesses need to work hard to make engineering and the process sector appear more attractive to more people in the labour market, especially encouraging young people to consider careers in these areas.

"Apprentices, graduates and mature entrants are just not coming in and if we don't do anything to rectify that, the situation we could find ourselves in is that by 2015, there will be a skills gap of about 13,000 engineers," he said.

"It's not a case of one organisation saying we will solve the problem. We are talking about professional agencies taking a lead - the regional development agency, Learning Skills Council and government, but particularly major industrial companies in the region."

The good news, according to Mr Collins, is the willingness of employers to overcome the problem for the future.

He also praised the efforts of companies who are devoting time and resources to up-skilling employees, but warned that organisations need to ensure training remains a priority.

"At the meeting, there was a general agreement that this is an issue and we can actually change it," he said.

"A lot of firms are putting their own training programmes in place, but unfortunately, the lessons of history tell us that when companies are trying to save money, it's their training programmes that go first."

One of the big messages from IMechE is that companies must keep investing in training, to ensure it is constantly evolving to reflect the needs of industry.

"Companies will see people leaving and need to be asking themselves, how are we going to replace them?" he said.

"One figure that came out at the skills debate was that 70% of the workforce in 2020 have already completed their formal education, but we have to continually make sure we can develop people's skills.

"They might have finished their qualifications from school, but in the workplace, we need to be asking what other skills do people need? What new technologies are coming along?"

Mr Collins suggested the need to continuously develop and enhance skills is particularly important. …

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