Future proofing against automotive skills shortage

Posted on 5 Nov 2015 by The Manufacturer

Dr Gordon Mizner, CEO of education charity EDT (Engineering Development Trust) highlights how workplace experience activity using the Industrial Cadet initiative allows North East automotive parts manufacturer Unipres to limit the extent of the future skills gap facing the company.

Gordon Mizner H&S, CEO, Engineering Development Trust
Gordon Mizner H&S, CEO, Engineering Development Trust.

In my job I frequently meet senior leaders of engineering and manufacturing businesses.

I always try to ask them what they are doing to protect their future company skills base. Typically, their brow will furrow as they are reminded of a problem that they hope will somehow go away.

In truth, many of their companies have engaged with providing apprenticeships for school leavers, which gives them a degree of comfort; but in conversation they will acknowledge the nagging feeling that they should be doing more.

It’s therefore refreshing to hear this confident quote from John Cruddace, plant director for Unipres in Sunderland.

“This is another step in the process to try to inspire kids to think about engineering as a career path – they may not want to go to university and may not know what they want to do when they leave school. It’s perfectly aligned to what we want to achieve and can help us to future-proof ourselves against skills shortages.”

Accrediting Workplace Experience

John was talking about Industrial Cadets, an initiative which is increasingly being utilised in manufacturing industry – including major names such as Airbus; AkzoNobel; BAE Systems; BP; GlaxoSmithKline; JLR; M-TEC Group; Müller; Rolls-Royce; Tata Steel, and Yamazaki Mazak – to accredit workplace experiences for young people.

Unipres is a good example of a medium-sized company moving in the same direction.

Industrial Cadets was inspired by HRH The Prince of Wales, whose insights on an industrial visit to a Tata Steel facility in the North East led to the establishment of a workplace experience activity by that company.

The initiative has since been extended and developed with funding from government and leadership from industry into a nationally recognised accreditation, enabling companies to develop high quality workplace experiences.

The development and application of the accreditation is managed by EDT on behalf of a leadership team representing engineering and manufacturing employers.

The idea of Industrial Cadets accreditation is that the activities undertaken as part of workplace experiences will enable students to acquire skills, competencies, experience and self-confidence from their activity.

The components of the activity programme are mapped against the skills and competencies they will provide and measured against a framework of different combinations and lengths of activities which affirms accreditation at Bronze, Silver, or Gold Level.

Unipres – which provides parts to Nissan, Renault and Honda for a wide range of vehicles – already has a significant and well established apprenticeship programme, but the Industrial Cadets accreditation of workplace activities for secondary school pupils allows them to address younger students who are still considering the careers they wish to follow and the school subjects they need to study to achieve those careers.

Implementing a workplace experience

pupils from Castle View Enterprise Academy in Sunderland
The first course run by Unipres included pupils from Castle View Enterprise Academy in Sunderland.

The first course run by Unipres included pupils from Castle View Enterprise Academy in Sunderland who ‘graduated’ as Industrial Cadets at Silver level in a ceremony in Summer 2015.

These young people were with Unipres for a full week, exploring a wide range of the company’s activities.

They undertook factory tours, visited Engineering; the Ultrasonics department; HR; health & safety, and obtained an understanding of the use of robots within the company.

On the final day, the students produced presentations around aspects of their time with Unipres which were demonstrated to senior management including the plant managing director, Gary Graham; production director, John Cruddace; HR manager, Stuart Sanderson, and apprentice coordinator, Rob Dodds.

An evaluation questionnaire confirmed that the experience had also been useful to the students, they all felt they now knew more about careers in manufacturing and industry, and more than three quarters thought that it’s now more likely they will pursue such a career.

More than half said they will be more likely to choose science and technology subjects at school, and all felt they have improved their skills through Industrial Cadets.

These figures are typical of the 2,000 young people undertaking Industrial Cadets accredited programmes in the past year.

Many engineering and manufacturing employers have been slow to appreciate the importance of allowing young people to understand their local industries and to learn about the careers that are available in these industries.

It’s only by such activity that they can be inspired to study subjects which will properly equip them for these careers.

The Industrial Cadet initiative gives employers guidance in establishing a high quality scheme that enables them to engage with their future workforce and deliver a nationally recognised accreditation that students are keen to have on their CVs.

Unipres HR manager, Stuart Sanderson says that engaging with Industrial Cadets has been a very simple exercise for the company: “Setting up the framework was very straightforward; after initial discussion with the local employer engagement manager, who provided good support, we had an approved Silver programme in place within two weeks and an introduction to 10 schools, initially facilitated by Industrial Cadets.

“We hope to develop our programme so that we involve more local schools with the help of Industrial Cadets. This will enable more school children to get the chance to find out that there are other career pathways outside going to university. Also we would hope that the schools would see this as a valuable learning experience for their students.”

For more information about how to accredit workplace experiences through Industrial Cadets visit: www.industrialcadets.org.uk 

The Unipres experience of commencing accredited workplace experiences is typical of the more than 50 employers also working with Industrial Cadets, between them offering more than 2,000 students over 40,000 hours of accredited workplace experience in the past year.

More than 400 schools have been engaged and the ambition is to work with many more employers and their local schools in an effort to inspire young people into preparing for an industrial career from early in their secondary school lives.