New scheme to tackle skills shortage in process industries

Posted on 9 Jun 2008 by The Manufacturer

Process Industry employers will be able to use a standards benchmark to assess their own training and qualifications, in a bid by the National Skills Academy to tackle a shortage in competant staff.

The Assessment System for Employer Training programme has been developed by Cogent Sector Skills Council and is currently being used in a pilot scheme. As well as making training consistent across the industry, it is hoped that the new initiative will highlight staff with existing skills worthy of accreditation. Through an industry standard, the scheme will allow employers to better evaluate and develop staff skills in the context of specific job roles.

The process industries, referring to the extraction and transformation of raw materials and chemicals into consumables and other products, is facing a potential vast shortage of skilled workers as young people snub engineering courses. The North East Process Industries Cluster (NEPIC) say around 20,000 new staff will be needed by 2014 to replace an ageing workforce. The process industry accounts for 25 per cent of the regional economy in the North East and employs 34,000 staff. Yet, according to NEPIC research, 70 per cent of 16-19 year olds do not even have a clear idea of what engineering is.

In response to such figures, a small group of employers with relevant awarding bodies are currently testing the Gold Standards system by Cogent. There are six such ‘standards’, with a qualification for each, broaching disciplines from technical competence to business improvement. The results, and the future of the scheme, will be known in the autumn of this year.

“The Skills Academy ethos is ‘by employers, for employers’, and this pilot will show just how much they will benefit, individually and as an industry, from involvement with the ASET programme, and from helping to develop the Gold Standard for their industry,” said Liz Rooney, the Skills Academy’s skill development manager.

She added: “Much of the identified process industry skills gap is very real, but a proportion of it is actually due to employers lacking an industry-wide and supportive framework of structured recognition for their existing training activities, or a method of measuring its value to their business, workforce and to the process industries as a whole.”

For more information on the scheme, visit