The importance of engaging with the next generation
You’d have done well to have not heard about the rife digital skills gap the UK is currently experiencing. It’s a topic covered widely by the media, with only 48% of UK employers reportedly thinking young people leave full-time education with sufficiently advanced digital skills. Such abilities are becoming an increasingly crucial asset in an ever-fluctuating jobs market. Industries may be embracing digitalisation and technological innovations, but they can only get so far without a skilled and knowledgeable workforce.
The source of the problem
The number of young people taking GCSE IT subjects has fallen considerably, by 40% since 2015! Uptake continues to decline in A Levels, further education, and apprenticeships, too. Such disinterest is one of the most significant contributors to worries about the next generation’s employment climate. Not to mention the disproportional impacts of the coronavirus outbreak on young workers; employment levels fell by 7% for young people aged between 16 and 24.
As employers increasingly demand an advanced digital skillset, it’s imperative to ensure young people want to participate in relevant learning and training. Step one is to inspire the next generation to seek a career in the digital world. Step two is to provide the means to gain high-quality skills that meet growing employer and economic pressures.
A sector in crisis
At Halston Marketing, we make it no secret that we’re obsessed with scoping out the most recent tech advancements in heavy industry. So, it’s safe to say we’re all too aware that there’s one sector facing a particularly troublesome skilled worker shortage.
Though the UK was the forefront of the late 18th Century Industrial Revolution, the popularity of a career in manufacturing has never been lower. The industry has reported its highest shortage of skilled workers since 1989, according to the Annual Manufacturing Report 2020.
It’s shocking that even though we’re the ninth largest manufacturing nation in the world (employing around 2.7 million people!), recruitment levels are in crisis. You’d expect people at the start of their careers to be jumping at the chance to work in an sector that has consistent economic success, right? Apparently not. Thanks to outdated public views of its employees, manufacturing struggles to attract younger recruits. Preconceptions include low pay, ‘old-fashioned’ work, and the idea the industry is dominated by older males. It starts to make sense.
But these prejudiced beliefs are a far contrast from the modern factories that are home to vast hubs of innovation across the UK. Manufacturing is undergoing a huge, exciting change, the fourth industrial revolution, in fact. Far from poor-conditioned, laborious work, the sector is at the forefront of embracing digitalisation. Coined Industry 4.0, manufacturing techniques now heavily rely on advanced technologies, including artificial intelligence, 3D printing, and robotics. Sign us up!
The green machine
It’s not just an innovative playing field in terms of tech, either; manufacturing is one of the sectors truly leading the sustainability charge. Companies have been improving practices and implementing processes to lessen the effects of climate change for years to help achieve the UK government’s commitment to 2050 net-zero targets.
We often associate Gen Z and millennials with climate awareness and activism. So, we’re scratching our heads about why they’re shying away from working in an industry that’s genuinely promoting these issues. The sector is seeing more experienced workers retire than new workers entering the industry at a worrying pace. According to a 2019 BCG study, job positions that need highly technical knowledge of IoT, as well as cloud and machine learning, are increasing by 20% each year.
It’s time to be proactive
We need action, and we need it now. Ultimately, educational institutions prepare students with the knowledge, skills, and qualifications they need for working life. By improving awareness of current skills shortages and certain sectors experiencing significant employment gaps, they can work to inspire and influence young people to pursue related learning. The new T-levels are a good starting point; promising to take students’ futures to the ‘next level’, content has been developed by big-name industry professionals and employers to ensure learned skills are relevant and in-demand.
Awareness of what careers in certain industries is really like in 2021 need promoting to entice young people into these lines of work. After all, it’s not only an investment to that young person; it’s an investment to that company and the overall sector. When the World Skills UK conducted research exploring the digital skills gap, they found a massive 88% of young people realise digital skills are essential to future careers. There’s never been a more appropriate time to turn such awareness into action.