‘T’ – time for the future workforce
Will the UK’s new alternative to A-Levels help solve the manufacturing skills gap?
This September, the UK’s first ‘T-Level’ courses in engineering and manufacturing will take on their inaugural cohort of students. They should be welcomed by the industry, but is there still enough to engage the young earlier in their career?
In a landscape already forged by the impact of the pandemic on staffing and productivity, the drive to meet net-zero targets and increase efficiencies also calls for new roles with skill sets that are simply not available in the labour market at the levels needed. These days, especially in the younger mind, engineering is often seen as a bit messy, dull, and not necessarily well paid. This is obviously a misconception. The reality is that the new skills employers require reflect a dynamic and exciting sector that enjoys the polar opposite of those perceptions.
Indeed, there surely has never been a better time to fire the imagination at the early levels of STEM education. If you think about it, we should be pushing at an open door when attracting and building a pipeline of young talent. After all, what’s not to like for a technology-savvy youngster who enjoys playing in a virtual world or creating narratives on social media is offered a career which uses artificial intelligence, robotics, and simulation to change society and defeat climate change in the real world? But even to establish this more intrinsically at primary school, which is really where it needs to start, is going to take years to filter through. So these new T-Levels are surely a good thing, as long as they are not the first time youngsters are truly engaged with their imaginations and interests. And it is essential that companies large and small welcome and support them through offering placements during their study.
Meanwhile, the increasing upskilling of the workforce already in situ, catalysed by the gap in new entrants, is a welcome side effect and is something the industry should shout about. It adds career value and the opportunity for development for existing employees. In turn, seeing these opportunities in a career will make the industry an even more attractive option at the entry level by smashing those dated perceptions further. Most importantly, it will provide career aspiration, which is where it all starts.
What are your thoughts on the industry skills gap?
Written by Jeremy Whittingham, Advanced Engineering