The engineering sector needs to constantly invest in skills improvement, retraining and “new qualification” of its workforce. This is nothing new, but in light of the “zero net” goals and the electric revolution, there are some important changes to be made and the time to start is now.
With the push towards net zero, the growth of data-driven manufacturing and the increase in the use of robotics, automation and electrification, the industry must manage two key factors: the extent of change and the pace of change.
We’re trying to create a huge shift in engineering skills in a relatively short amount of time, and this can’t be done in a single push. A greater and continued investment in skills will allow the industry to respond much more quickly – and proactively – to change, rather than waiting for it to be ignored.
We know that the technologies involved in net zero and the electric revolution will continue to evolve in the coming years. For the industry to remain responsive, an agile approach and continuous investment in skills will be key.
The educational challenge
Keeping pace with rapid technological, environmental and social changes is a huge challenge. The education sector needs to become much more responsive to the rapidly changing needs of the sector and take a more proactive stance to address future skills, rather than just addressing the skills needed now. This challenge is being faced head-on by suppliers who are moving to enable the provision of expertise for the sector.
Professional and accreditation organizations also need to become more responsive and proactive, adapting to support the needs of their members.
The National Electrification Skills Framework provides a clear blueprint for a coordinated national effort to address skill needs and create opportunities in electrification. This is a clear picture of skills showing progression opportunities and ‘entry points’ for staff, providing alignment with a common curriculum that will ensure a consistently high quality approach to education and training delivery. The competency framework also considers electrification in an industry-independent way, which allows a wider range of needs to be met through the development of generic training.
Apprenticeships play a valuable role, but they need to be more flexible to ensure that they are still relevant at the end of the program when the needs of businesses and the jobs they need may have already changed, particularly in the most rapidly changing sectors, such as production of cars and batteries.
Education providers must continue to work collaboratively with businesses to ensure education programs meet the needs of sectors now, but also five years from now. Making education and training available in smaller portions, for a longer period of time, would fully realize lifelong learning and help people adapt.
Addressing national skills gaps
WMG is a leader in bridging the gap between academia and industry, driving innovation in science, technology, engineering and skills, and working closely with a range of awarding organizations and professional bodies to help them. to adapt as quickly as possible.
The new WMG Skills Center, launched in January 2022, aims to bring together all of WMG’s professional and continuing development courses under one roof. It continues to offer industry-leading short courses such as The Battery School, as well as a range of new courses that address national skill gaps in digital manufacturing, energy systems, smart vehicles and manufacturing. The center will offer an ever-evolving and growing range of courses to meet current and future needs of industry and business, such as digital manufacturing, supply chain and logistics, clean transportation and electrification and techniques advanced production.
What can we expect next?
Constant change is the watchword. Nothing will stay the same and therefore the way we consider the importance of skills and the way courses are designed and delivered must change to effectively address skills gaps. The National Electrification Skills Framework has outlined a blueprint for a collaborative approach that can be implemented in a range of different engineering areas, such as mining, other areas of manufacturing and civil engineering, which will enable a much more skilled workforce and mobile to adapt and flex to future needs.
Learn more about the National Electrification Skills Framework and how you can get involved in the forum here.
Learn more about WMG’s new range of short courses at the WMG Skills Center here.
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The content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.