How best to bridge the UK skills gap for the long-term - Mitrefinch

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How best to bridge the UK skills gap for the long-term

Published: December 19, 2018

With Britain’s skills gap potentially widening ever faster, not helped by the potential fallout from Brexit, savvy businesses are looking more closely at how best to secure skilled staff. The problem is widespread across a variety of sectors, including manufacturing and logistics, and action needs to be taken to protect current output and help support future growth.

According to The Open University’s 2018 Business Barometer, British business spent a staggering £6.3 billion on trying to plug the skills gap with temporary workers, inflated salaries, extra training and recruitment fees. While these methods all solve the short-term problem, a bit like constantly refilling a bucket with a hole in the bottom, some ways are better than others for long-term benefit. According to City and Guilds research, 87% of British companies struggle to recruit the staff they need.

Here are some potential ways your manufacturing or logistics operations could help plug that skills gap.

  • Switching to an agile workforce means you’ll be able to move teams and individuals around on a project-by-project basis when demand requires. This needs something of a culture change in your business. First, you need to train your staff in a variety of skills or create teams with a cross-section of skills. Together they can tackle projects across the business, rather than being shoe-horned into one unit for eternity. Now, as opportunities arise, you have the existing staff to shift across rather than seeking external help.
  • Building new training schemeto suit your business is becoming necessary for some. Schools are perhaps not preparing leavers with the skills your business needs, and university degrees have, by and large, not adapted to shifting workplace requirements. In some cases, it’s advantageous to look at creating a bespoke training scheme, perhaps in association with an external educational establishment. Furness College in Barrow built an Advanced Manufacturing Technology Centre to prepare students for big-hitting local manufacturing businesses in association with Centrica, BAE Systems and Siemens.
  • Turning toward automation as a way of replacing tasks that are increasingly difficult to fill with human workers, it’s a no-brainer. Manufacturing production lines are a perfect case in point, while in logistics, warehousing is looking increasingly at robotics for storage and retrieval of stock for distribution.
  • Bolstering apprenticeship programs provide a low-cost salary entry rate while young people receive training on the job.

 

Above all else, retain your workforce better

While any number of the solutions proposed here can help provide skilled workers in a shorter amount of time, reducing the need for temporary workers, and cutting open vacancy times, retaining your workforce is just as critical.

Having worked so hard to attract skilled staff, the last thing you want is a high turnover. Look at how your business can better retain employees through quality training, being inclusive, offering health, mental and financial well-being, and developing a great work culture. Doing so will not only retain your workforce better, it will boost productivity, engagement and profits. With that all said and done, you’ll see it makes sense to plug that leak in the bottom of the bucket, rather than to refill it constantly.

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