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Jon Kennard


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Insight: ‘Role creep’ is restricting recruitment potential


A new research report by Festo shows that 76% of manufacturers and engineers find it difficult to recruit in spite of considerable government investment to attract more people to a career in manufacturing and engineering.
Gary Wyles, managing director of Festo Training and Consulting believes that in the present economy, much of the difficulty in recruitment is due to 'role creep'.  He commented, “In an effort to save costs, manufacturers and engineering firms are expecting employees to take on not just a single job, but to also have experience in other fields. This sets the bar extremely high for potential employees and as a result, manufacturers are finding it difficult to recruit the right people for the job.”
Wyles continues:  “New recruits are expected to ‘hit the ground running’ and to have high qualifications, experience and knowledge of the latest technology. For those new to the industry, it is very difficult to live up to those expectations and can be a barrier to their career progression in the industry. Companies can also rely heavily on universities to provide graduates with all the latest skills, yet the reality is that many colleges and universities simply have difficulty accessing the latest versions of programmes and technology to equip our graduates with up-to-date skills.” 
Wyles suggests that companies have a number of choices if they are to open up their talent pool:
  • Be more realistic about the level of experience that the role really requires
  • Define the role and expectations fully
  • Be prepared to invest in ongoing training and development
  • Work with higher education to improve experience and skills of students before they enter the industry.
The difficulty in recruiting the right skills is worrying in an environment where the average age of workers in manufacturing is over 50 years[1]. Even with the coalition’s proposed changes to the State Pension Age, the industry needs to put in place policies to retain older workers at retirement age, as well as put in place programmes to attract and support young people in the industry. There are some new initiatives designed to attract young talent to a career in manufacturing and engineering, such as National Science and Engineering Week; Talent 2030 and STEM an initiative designed to encourage students to study Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. However, if the industry is to overcome its difficulty in recruiting the right people, initiatives such as these will need to have a more immediate impact.
The report, The Need for Skills 2012, surveyed more than 100 respondents in engineering and manufacturing and aimed to provide an overview of some of the issues relating to skills in the industry including recruitment, learning and development, technical skills, leadership skills, engagement, apprenticeship schemes and succession planning.
The report also highlights the following areas:
  • UK school-leavers and graduates are less likely to choose engineering and manufacturing as a career than their European counterparts.  47% of respondents agreed that manufacturing suffers from an image problem
  • Mixed views about a positive future for manufacturing in the UK – 36% agree the future is bright for manufacturing, 52% disagree
  • A lack of investment in skills, particularly soft skills aimed at leadership and management – 75% say that management skills are an important issue, yet only 32% say their leadership capabilities are adequate
  • A direct link between employee engagement and retention, yet few companies have a formal structure in place to measure employee engagement.  56% of engaged employees say they will be with their current employer by next year, compared to 13% of their disengaged colleagues.  50% rated the level of engagement within the company as 8 and above, yet 42% had no specific measurement in place.
  • A strong emphasis on apprenticeship schemes.  50% of respondents had an apprenticeship scheme and 32% had one in development
  • A low emphasis on coaching and mentoring.  Only 14% had a defined coaching programme in place
For more information on any of the areas outlined click here


Author Profile Picture
Jon Kennard

Freelance writer

Read more from Jon Kennard

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