Ann Watson, managing director of awarding organisation EAL, discusses the role that training plays in the sector.
If our economy is to prosper we need to invest in developing the skills of the people spearheading the growth in emerging technologies.
The issue is keeping a balance between nurturing the next generation of employees while developing the skills of those who are currently working in the sector.
Training can deliver benefits on many levels and for workers with different abilities. these can include a loyal, motivated staff base and a business that benefits from a highly skilled workforce. Through ongoing learning and development schemes, ambitious and talented staff are continually challenged, while those who might be struggling are fully supported.
Manufacturing is a sector that can change at a rapid pace, and training has never been more important as a way to keep one step ahead of technological progress. Without serious commitment to training and developing staff, the industry will not grow and prosper. This means that both apprenticeships and continuous professional development are essential and should reflect the way the industry advances.
Up-skilling current workers can also have significant benefits. By focusing investment at entry level we run the risk of creating a skills gap, where young people have the knowledge but little practical skills while the more mature worker has the experience of the industry but lacks the technical knowledge. To reduce this imbalance we must remain committed to investing in continuous professional development as well as apprenticeships.
If the UK is to lead the technical advancements of the manufacturing sector on a global scale, we need to produce a highly skilled workforce which is confident with new and emerging technologies. The Government must recognise the breadth of demand for training and be aware of the danger of investing solely in apprenticeships for school leavers. Whilst we recognise and emphasise the importance of our future workforce, we should not do so at the detriment of the present; a healthy sector requires investment in all skill levels.