The UK electronics industry has for some time been facing a technical skills gap. STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) are not a popular choice for school leavers even with various incentives and schemes in place to encourage students to take an interest. As employers in the electronics sector we, and our friends in other firms, experience this first hand. Recruiting people with the right skills is a challenge.
Yet the UK electronics industry is an exciting and dynamic place to be, contributing £80 billion to the UK economy and is the 5th largest electronics producer in the world. With our increasingly technology focused lifestyles driving demand for ever more innovative electronics, being involved in such a cutting edge sector is something our team at EC Electronics finds extremely rewarding.
If the number of graduates entering the industry is anything to go by, we’re obviously in the minority in thinking that electronics is a great career opportunity. However, there is hope out there! For a few years we’ve been running an apprenticeship programme and increasingly I think this will be important aspect of our recruitment policy.
Not that we’ve got anything against graduates, but there’s a growing trend amongst school and college leavers to think twice about university – the average £44,000 of graduate debt could be something to do with this.
Take our apprentice Nathan Ennis who is currently doing a Level 3 Apprenticeship in Electrical Engineering. He initially went to college to study for A-Levels in Maths, Physics and Electronics but realised that this style of learning was not for him.
Instead he’s attending college once a week, as part of his apprenticeship, and the rest of time he’s learning in the workplace. Instead of working on hypothetical projects in a classroom, he’s working on projects where the solutions and products created have a real life application. I believe that this provides a fantastic experience for school and college leavers – getting hands on experience and really seeing how their skills and knowledge can be applied in the workplace.
Nathan has already been promoted from the workshop floor to the office and is able to see the opportunities for career progression, and how he can build a career doing the things that interest him. Unlike those in fulltime education, he also gets a salary so is already being rewarded for his contribution in the workplace.
Of course, from an employer’s perspective apprenticeship schemes don’t provide you with skilled workers from day one. It’s not a short term fix. However we are able to ensure that through training in the workplace we are giving school and college leavers the skills we all need to succeed both in business and in our careers. We hope to be able to offer skilled apprentices employment after they’ve completed their apprenticeship, and therefore we are investing in our future as much as theirs.
All electronics firms need to put strategies in place to provide them with a pool of skilled talent in the future. While skills shortages may make it difficult today, apprenticeship schemes are an excellent way people into the industry and helping our businesses to thrive.
If you would like to talk to us a bit more about our experience of offering apprenticeships, we would be happy to answer any questions you may have – contact Sue at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.