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Skills shortage in aerospace & automotive industries

10 December 2013

Collaboration between education providers and industry has been flagged as crucial for employers looking to capitalise on new technologies, according to a new report on the automotive and aerospace industries.

The report, Technologies and Skills in Aerospace and Automotive, has been published by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) and focusses on feedback from a group of early pioneers of technological developments, including 3D printing.

The research found that a common feeling among industry leaders was that a shortfall in job applicants with hands-on skills and experience of using such technologies was inhibiting future development within the industry - and that joining up with local training and education providers was the most effective way to tackle the issue.

Nigel Whitehead, Group MD of BAE Systems and a commissioner for the UKCES, said that cohesion between education providers and those working on the front line of the industry was the key to success.

"With technologies developing at an increasingly rapid rate it is more important than ever that the education system produces young people whose skills are as impressive as their enthusiasm” said Whitehead.

"It is only by working directly with education providers - providing vital feedback on the skills needed to allow both businesses and workers to excel – that we can keep Britain at the forefront of the engineering industry.”

This problem is particularly prevalent among smaller companies, who often lack the resources and influence of larger employers and therefore struggle to access training and tap into local talent.

Rebecca Jones, a Research Manager at UKCES who helped compile the report, said: "For many technology firms, there is a limited pool of talent available. This pool needs to be built upon, otherwise competition for labour invariably means that only well-resourced firms can source the capability needed.”

Smaller firms are also faced with further challenges, as they often require multi-skilled recruits to undertake additional supporting roles like IT, Quality Assurance and Business Development on top of their day jobs.

3D printing is a fast-growing new technology, where components are built up layer-by-layer using digitally-controlled machine tools. The innovation is set to alter the way many materials are produced, drastically cutting production times and removing the need for traditional manufacturing techniques. For many aerospace and automotive firms, this creates a shift in demand for people with knowledge of 3D printing techniques and design for manufacture.

Although working with education providers does require resources from businesses, the potential benefits of capitalising on the latest technological developments and snapping up key talent could make the difference in staying ahead of the competition in the on-going race to innovate.