EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, has appointed Professor John Perkins – the Government’s former Chief Scientific Adviser for business and author of its ground-breaking review of engineering skills in the UK - as an adviser.
Professor Perkins, who teaches at the University of Manchester, will support the manufacturers’ organisation as it strengthens its skills and innovation policy work and training provision in a bid to tackle the growing skills gap in the sector.
The move is in direct response to EEF’s recently published skills report, which warned that manufacturers’ plans to drive productivity improvements and to capitalise on the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) could be derailed because the UK is struggling to provide the right quantity and quality of skills to meet the sector’s needs. With demand on the increase for people experienced in all forms of engineering, management and technical manufacturing skills, there is an urgent need for a comprehensive industry and Government-led strategy.
Professor Perkins has joined EEF as an adviser to work with the body on its strategy to help alleviate the immediate impact on firms, while working with Government on longer-term solutions. He will also advise EEF on closer links between universities and industry.
Almost three quarters of manufacturers (73%) have found it difficult to recruit skilled workers in the last three years. They are challenged by both the quantity and quality of candidates, with firms regularly forced to contend with a lack of technical skills (67%), an insufficient number of applicants (64%) and a lack of relevant experience (61%). At the same time, Government (UKCES) statistics show that the number of ‘hard-to-fill’ vacancies in manufacturing remains stubbornly high at 35% - unchanged from 2013 and worse than in 2011 when it was at 30%.
Terry Scuoler, Chief Executive of EEF, says: “As a leading engineer and expert in this field, Professor Perkins will help us navigate the complex skills issues facing our sector and the UK as a whole. The changing landscape with the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy and the chronic shortage of engineers and other skilled employees is hitting our sector hard.
“The skills crunch is acting as a serious brake on productivity and, unsurprisingly, it is a top priority for many companies. It requires a radical approach and reinvigorated support from Government and stakeholders at a time when we need to re-boot our commitment to engineering and manufacturing across all policy areas.”
Professor Perkins says: “When I published my review of engineering in 2013, it was clear that we urgently needed to equip our new and existing workforce with the right skills and learning opportunities to support industry. That challenge has not gone away – in fact it is becoming more acute.
“I’m delighted to be working with EEF in support of manufacturing and the need to maintain our country’s commitment to developing and training new generations of highly skilled people to support Britain’s long-term economic ambitions.”