iconsys is empowering its people through its own academy

Posted on 20 Jun 2024 by The Manufacturer

Milissa Chesters, Head of People and Culture at iconsys, explains why one of the UK’s fastest growing technology businesses has decided to seize the day when it comes to finding and attracting new talent… by creating its own academy.

A lot has been written in the media about the current labour shortage and, for someone who has worked in HR for more than 20 years, Milissa states that the current situation is as severe as it has ever been for manufacturers.

“We’re dealing with a complex cocktail of issues that have been exacerbated by the pandemic and a brain drain caused by Brexit, with many migrant workers choosing to return home.

“Frustratingly, this scenario comes at a time when UK manufacturers are experiencing strong growth and a raft of new opportunities from reshoring, the lure of the ‘Made in Britain’ brand and our influence in driving emerging sectors.”

iconsys is a perfect example. Its automation solutions are helping to create the factories of the future and the company has seen a demand in its services increase by 54%. It has invested heavily to meet this growth, with £3m channelled into creating a 17,500sq ft smart HQ in Shropshire and a second office in Cheshire at Sci-Tech’s Innovation Centre.

These innovative spaces offer flexible, agile and enjoyable working environments, surrounded by nature, that will allow for co-working and collaboration and aids learning of people at all levels.

However, Milissa added that the bricks and mortar are the easy bit; with the company’s bigger challenge coming from attracting engineers with the right skills.

She highlighted that historically, there used to be several apprenticeship schemes that were better aligned to engineering, which catered for both craft and technical students. This has not been the case for years, which has led to a sizable gap as more experienced engineers are now edging towards retirement.

She commented: “Whilst we could wait in hope for the government to take more comprehensive action, we have learned that the power lies within if we want to make meaningful change in our industry.

“About 12 months ago we said, ‘enough was enough’ and decided to take a different approach to solving our skills shortage.”

Best in class

iconsys reached out to several experts in the field of training and talent development, including Bill Drury, visiting professor of Engineering at both Bristol and Newcastle Universities.

The aim was to understand different ways of attracting, developing and retaining the ‘best in class’ engineering talent for both the now and the future.

All this intelligence was brought back and presented to the senior management team, who swiftly took the decision to develop the iconsys Academy to enhance learning and development across the business through state-of-the-art online learning, blended with classroom and on-the-job training.

This is not a short-term solution, but a long-term commitment and iconsys immediately ring-fenced more than £250,000 to not only bring it to life but to fund its natural evolution as it expands.

Milissa explained: “We are using Moodle Workplace to smoothly run our online training programmes for our 80-strong workforce, automatically assigning learning to individuals and tracking their competencies, as well as providing content sharing and personalised learning features.”

Making a difference

It has only been six months since the launch of the academy, but iconsys is already seeing positive results from this proactive approach. Two new engineers have already been recruited with five more required over the year as we continue to provide bespoke automation solutions to high profile clients in the many industries the company operate in.

“Importantly, having our first northern office has given us greater recruitment flexibility and allows for a more engaging experience for our existing talent living in and around this part of the country,” Milissa added. “We predict and are already seeing that having a base in this region is creating an influx of new opportunities to enhance our talent pool.”

Ultimately, if UK manufacturing is going to take advantage of a changing industrial world order, then we need more companies to take a proactive stance and look at ways where they can grow their own engineers or attract new talent to our sector.

This is just the start for iconsys. There are lots of exciting plans in place to develop this platform further, ensuring a ‘future pipeline of engineering talent’ for the business but also the wider automation solutions sector.

For more stories like this, visit our People & Skills channel.