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Engineering the future

Engineering the future

Albert Einstein said: “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” With skilled engineers in short supply, providing the next generation with vocational hands-on training is essential. Stewart Goulding, managing director at EMS, explains how apprenticeships are benefiting the engineering sector.

Despite over 700,000 people participating in an apprenticeship between 2018 – 2019, the number of new apprenticeships being started has fallen over the past decade. However, with technology rapidly advancing and the skills gap growing, engineering companies must increase investment in future recruits to remain competitive and productive. Apprenticeships offer the ideal opportunity to mould the future generation and better business.

Engineering is a highly technical and diverse industry.  Sourcing recruits that have the relevant qualifications and skills is difficult, and even then, many will require further training on specific equipment and procedures. In fact, according to the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), 60 per cent of engineering and technology employers believe the shortage of skilled recruits is a barrier to achieving business goals.

Apprenticeships can be designed with the company’s future needs in mind. Current and potential skill gaps in the company can be identified, allowing the development of specialised training and apprenticeship programmes. For example, Miguel Millan, an apprentice at EMS, began his training by scanning in technical drawings, but is now a design engineer working on his own projects. Employees trained through specialised apprenticeships will be shaped into a perfect fit for the company — meaning the employer is not only investing in its people, but the business as a whole.

While sourcing talent can be hard, retaining it can be even harder. The shortage of skilled workers means employers are in fierce competition, and retaining talented individuals is a priority. With job hopping on the rise, employers must do more to keep staff interested. Apprenticeships go against the job changing trend, encouraging participants to consider their job as a long term career.

Investing time into fully training apprentices makes them feel a valued member of the company. In return, apprentices will be committed to the organisation and be highly motivated to help it meet its goals. The enthusiasm apprentices bring improves the morale of long standing employees, leading to an overall more motivated and satisfied workforce.

The specialised skills apprentices gain mean they will be ideal candidates for promotions into more senior positions, understanding the business from the bottom up. Promoting from within will allow individuals to progress while staying with the same company, as well as expanding the knowledge and experience of the workforce.

With the demand for new, fast produced technology growing, optimising productivity is essential. In a survey by the National Apprenticeship Service, 78 per cent of employers believed company productivity was increased by hiring apprentices.

Apprentices can come from a range of backgrounds before being trained by the employer. The inquisitive approach from apprentices can inspire productive discussion, generating new ideas for the company and motivating other staff members. This is all while their new perspective on the company may be able to identify ways of improvement that other team members may have overlooked.

In addition, apprentices can be initially delegated the more basic tasks to learn and build up responsibility, enabling experienced workers to complete more complicated and technical jobs. This optimised allocation of work ensures the skills of each worker are maximised, resulting in increased productivity.

Strengthen company reputation

Any company’s success is dependent on its reputation. Customers are wanting more from companies, looking for diversity and social commitments. In fact, the National Apprenticeship Service found 81 per cent of customers prefer to buy from companies that have apprentices.

Taking on apprentices shows that a company wants to give back to the community and invest in its people, demonstrating a commitment to corporate social responsibility. It also shows an enthusiasm for keeping the company modern, as apprentices can provide fresh ideas that will appeal to younger audiences.

Advertising apprenticeships simultaneously promotes the company and can help build strong links with schools, colleges and universities. Recruiting for apprentices conveys that the company is successful, as their staff must already be highly skilled if they are going to train others.

Engineering companies are facing many challenges, which must be considered in their long term business plan. With concerns over the growing skills gap, keeping up with technological advancement and remaining competitive, employers must develop individuals who will be ready for the future of engineering.

So, take note from Albert Einstein and involve the next generation in company apprenticeships, allowing them to learn and become valuable employees.

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