By Victoria Bonnar, Human Resources Manager, Dynamic EMS.
Electronics manufacturing plays a crucial role in the UK's economic, social and technological landscape, providing quality employment, on a substantial scale and enabling an active supply chain, that physically distributes products across the world.
UK electronics manufacturing is recognised, on a global platform, as having a world-leading position in aerospace and defence, medical, industrial and communications product development and order fulfilment. Engineering and manufacturing have been in the DNA of the UK since the country led the way in the first industrial revolution, with innovation and scientific advancements underpinning what makes Great Britain, great. Electronic manufacturing associations and academia houses increase the country's state of survival, whilst its strong engineering history has contributed to building an intense knowledge-base.
With the fourth industrial revolution on the horizon, how does the UK still rank?
The arrival of the 'fourth industrial revolution', supported by the partnership of digital technology and traditional equipment, will require a new labour skill set at almost every level of business.
Victoria Bonnar comments on what she has seen develop over the course of her employment in the electronics manufacturing industry; "The electronics manufacturing workforce is getting older and the proportion of young workers (aged under 25) coming forward for roles in electronics manufacturing has been steadily decreasing."
"In Dynamic EMS, we sit at the heart of innovation and product development, and to remain competitive we invest in key technologies and industry-leading processes such as Lean, Six Sigma and Industry 4.0, which has led to the 'up-skilling' of labour. In principle, these decisions make strategic business and economic sense; with the upskilling of labour having the desired ripple effect on social well-being, however as not every process within our electronics manufacturing service provision is automated, we continue to have a need for talented resources from operatives and engineers, to key account managers and supply chain professionals."
A recent Confederation of British Industry (CBI) survey stated that 44% of engineering, science and high-tech firms report a difficulty in finding experienced recruits with the right skills. In parallel, employers anticipate an increasing need for people with higher level skills and express their concern over their ability to recruit these people in the appropriate numbers required to support their ongoing business needs. Research highlights that there is an increased demand for lower-skilled jobs, mainly driven by health and social care, by an ageing population, and for highly skilled jobs e.g., technician and above, which all require science, technology, engineering and maths-based competencies.
"At Dynamic EMS, we aim to bridge the generation gap by forming strong and close links with colleges and universities and we support an apprentice program. We have found that this hands-on approach enables us to encourage more students to choose STEM subjects and make some well-informed choices that support a career in engineering, technology and manufacturing."
The report also discussed the ongoing need to increase retention and embed a culture of loyalty in employees, as through investment in talent, the workforce increasingly becomes more highly trained and skilled.
"We draw on the talent that already exists within our Dynamic workforce; increasing the skill level, investing in talent and improving our employee retention. Dynamic EMS operates a paternalistic and open culture towards employees who have served the company well over many years. With an average service of 18 years, our employees are truly an inspiration and their loyalty ensure that Dynamic EMS achieves its aspirations. But, we take the value we add out with the bricks and mortar of Dynamic EMS to support community relations and the society in which we reside. This helps us to build bonds with neighbours and create a positive brand reputation as an employer of choice."
To conclude, the survey summary suggests, that the industry skill gap and predicted resource shortage is of true concern to manufacturing, with a future forecast of 265,000 skilled entrants required annually to meet the demand for engineering enterprises through to 2024.
"It's time to act. As a combined force, with a shared goal in mind, we all need to recognise that it is time to invest in the future of the next generation. We need to educate ourselves on how freely labour will be able to move post-Brexit, and we need to take the necessary steps to prepare and protect." Victoria summarises.