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Skills shortages industry wide have been a hot topic within the UK for a significant number of years. The reality is the UK will at some point not be able to provide the skills required to keep many industries going, this has become even more apparent following the Brexit referendum.

Skills shortages in construction for example are now considered a global risk which is likely to affect many organisations within the construction industry. In addition skills shortage are being viewed as one of the factors impeding growth in the industry with the reports stating “financial constraints, labour shortages and planning delays remain the key impediments to growth with 80%, 60% and 60% of surveyors reporting difficulties with each, respectively”(RICS.org, 2018) ( Lwanga, P 2018), p4 EMBA573 Assignment).

The diagram below illustrates the regional skills demand by vacancies across the UK with a significant number of regions failing to fill the vacancies available due to the lack of skilled labour.

skills shortage by region

Linked closely to this is the lack of employability skills within the UK workforce. There are Key employability skills as stated by STEMNET, which are just not being taught, top employers in the UK fed into the list, highlighting the skills they see as the key employability skills they are seeking in their recruitment drives;
• Communication and Interpersonal Skills
• Problem Solving Skills
• Initiative / Self-Motivation
• Time management
• Organisational skills
• Teamworking
• Adaptability
• Numeracy
• Understanding Diversity
• Negotiation Skills

At Engage2Action we realised quite early on that this is not an issue that can be tackled independently, given the number of key stakeholders involved. To enable transformational change in the way employability skills are taught, we must collaborate with other likeminded charities and social enterprise organisations to ensure we get the traction needed and grow our influence as one voice.

Working together is the only way to bring about the change required, E2A will work closely with our peer group supporting the already established initiatives, whilst developing our innovative offering, which will help with both reach and implementation. As a community-based organisation this is paramount to our success.


Skills shortage in every industry

What is the industry saying?

Talking about the construction sector and the imminent threat of failure due to “An unholy trinity of demographic, geopolitical and societal megatrends which is already starting to degrade our industry’s model of periodically supplementing its highly traditional labour force.” Mark Farmer makes the point that the skills shortage crisis isn’t just about numbers but also types of skills “We also need to urgently retrain our workers and attract a new breed that can use technology with new processes.” – Mark Farmer Founding Director Cast

collection of construction safety helmet
Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

This is one industry sector, but the story is the same across all sectors, just the other day someone was telling me about their son working in the Eden Project who had, along with their research colleagues, been trying to engage with local schools to encourage young people into the world of plant science. There are not enough people coming into the industry which is focussed on hugely impactful research and development in the areas of global food security, synthetic biology and biotechnology, and climate science and ecosystem conservation. Change the industry to title to Medicine, Engineering, Computer Science, or anything not related to being a You Tube blogger or professional football player, and it is clear the skills shortage is already a crisis.

What is the Solution?

The long-term solution, which is what is needed to make a sustainable change, is to further support the employability skills education initiatives already in play, provide real social value rather than just target hitting and we must ensure the diversity of the jobs and people doing those jobs in every community, is made clear to young people from as early as possible.

woman in green top using macbook beside group of people
Photo by Fox on Pexels.com

In terms of careers guidance and business engagement the main focus of attention is at secondary school, and while this age group absolutely need robust and specific engagement, along with support, to develop their employability skills throughout their path to work, this age group has, in the most, already formed their view of the world of work. Whilst it is possible to broaden their horizons and guide them more effectively through their chosen route, it is routinely more the case that they are fixed on what they want to do or what field they want to practise in.

Our view

Our view at Engage2Action, shared by many peers across industry and education, is that the best place to start the conversation about the world of work is the formative years – in primary school. This is the time when children are inspired and in awe of parents, teachers and business people, they are open to the idea that they can be anything, have little or no constraints to their creative thoughts and haven’t become set on their perception of the real world. Most certainly at this age children have a very narrow view of what their community has to offer and may not even have any experience outside of their immediate circle of friends and family, this may be for so many reasons – the unholy trinity springs to mind again!

How are we going to help?

Schools also have constraints and difficulties in making that engagement happen, even though it may have been an item on leadership plans for many a term, budget, terminology, the curriculum, time, parents support, the list goes on. What is needed is a model by which schools can plan business engagement with ease and the benefits to industry clearly articulated in terms of social value. Engage2Action have developed this model and are working successfully with schools and the local community to implement it, the long term benefits of which we won’t be able to measure but can speculate to be improved employment rates in STEM careers and careers of the future, increased local economy, sustainable workforce with the right skills, reduced rates of young offenders, reduced drain on public money, better uptake of the apprenticeship levy and increased numbers of young people going into higher education.

Who are Engage2Action?

We are a group of passionate people who have worked in both education and industry, we understand how important it is to give young people the best start in life, and that everyone’s journey into the world of work is different.

We know that demonstrable impact around social value is extremely important to business,  and that it is often difficult to effectively engage with the schools and communities we live in, especially as an SME with scarce resource.

At Engage2Action we know how to bring business into the classroom so together we can tackle employability skills at the grass roots level, alongside supporting young people’s wellbeing by giving them access to inclusive sporting experiences and education within their own local community.

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”
― Mother Teresa