Are skills shortages stopping your business from reaching its full potential?
This is the question being asked at sector skills meet-ups in the Northeast. In a post-COVID world, questions around SMEs in the process sector of the Tees Valley are emerging – how do they tackle their skills gaps and labour market challenges to prepare themselves for the future? As the Process Industry expands, it is facing skill shortages. The sector is entering into a phase of developing renewable and innovative new products, thus the skills we need are rapidly evolving. Across the board skills gaps have started to narrow, but we are starting to see rapid improvements in areas such as Biological and Chemical Science. Core skills such as scientific knowledge, communication and problem-solving have also improved. However, academic education tends to be separated into individual faculties, which creates graduates with skills that are often poorly aligned with industry needs. To be industry-ready, candidates need to have a range of interdisciplinary skills which allow them to work across remits and in different teams. Such skills gaps often leave graduates struggling to keep up with the rapidly changing technologies and innovations of their working environment.
If the Process sector is to deliver its growth ambitions, the education and skills element of the sector needs the capacity and capability to provide an ongoing flow of talent and support the upskilling and reskilling of the workforce at the right scale, in the right locations and at the right time. Time is the main barrier to upskilling and reskilling in many SMEs and large organisations. In order to bridge the skills gap, employers are using time and resources to train their workforce, often in different ways for different projects. New, innovative ways of training and development are therefore required to upskill the workforce without the organisation losing productivity. As well as attracting new talent, organisations must also work to retain the key staff who already have the appropriate skills and experience. COVID-19 has not only changed the game for the UK’s process sector but how employees view their workplace, and their outlook on the priority of mental health. They are now looking to get more out of their career and work in a place that aligns with their values. Employees are re-evaluating their work environment, and now more than ever are looking for companies that offer well-being programmes, flexible working, and regular social events. A working environment that supports employee well-being and promotes a healthy work-life balance, is one that retains its employees.
A clear development plan that nurtures employees’ knowledge and growth is one that improves retention. Allowing key staff to visualize themselves in the business across the long term is critical to ambitious growth plans for both the employee and the business. All of this means that the Process sector will be very different in the near future. As a sector, we need to prepare for such change and meet these new demands by developing new pipelines as an industry priority, to unlock value through skills and meet the significant recruitment demand we face. We already have a strong skills infrastructure across Higher Education and Further Education, which embraces technical and vocational skills development. But the existing arrangements will not entirely meet the skills challenges we face. We also need to take a more diverse approach to our apprenticeships and graduate intake, to ensure young people have a say in the way we operate. We need a new approach to lifelong learning and an ever-stronger and closer partnership with our schools, universities and training providers.
Get in touch if you’d like to discuss any issues your organisation is currently facing with the skills gap to see if there’s any way that Jackson Hogg can support you.
By Jackson Hogg