TM was on hand at the BAE Systems Skills 2020 debate today, where delegates and speakers debated what action is needed from businesses, government and the education system.
Dick Olver, chairman of BAE Systems today outlined plans to develop and recruit hundreds of UK engineers and technicians for its cyber and intelligence and submarines business this year. The event served as a base for a debate on how to best approach the UK’s growing skills shortage.
Michael Davis, chief executive of the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, emphasised that while four of the top 10 universities in the world are located in the UK, our country is still ‘relatively skills poor’. He said: “We need to avoid a low-wage, low-skill cycle. Government is proving to be rather good at getting people back to work, but this needs to be sustainable – people need to be continually learning in their jobs, not merely getting paid.”
Nigel Whitehead, group managing director of Programmes and Support at BAE Systems made the point that BAE Systems ensures it doesn’t set up ‘talking shops’, where the issue of skills is debated but where nothing is done about it: “We invest £79m annually in skills and education activities in the UK, working with top Universities – including the Institute for Manufacturing at Cambridge University.”
“We are also involved heavily in the Worldskills event this year, and we had a big presence at the Big Bang Fair in April,” he added.
The main themes of the debate included the government’s involvement in supporting the growth of skills in areas that are lacking. The general consensus was that micromanagement needs to be avoided. Also, the need for a renewed focus on those in the supply bases of large firms was evident: one delegate highlighted the need for a renewed focus on the needs of those SMEs involved in such supply chains.