For several years, Industry 4.0 and the engineering technology trends associated with the Internet of Things (IoT) have been in their infancy with many companies at the early stages of innovation and the technology adoption lifecycle.
As this decade comes to a close, we are seeing signs that rapid change is happening; implementation of new technologies has already begun and will most certainly characterise and shape the next decade of engineering and manufacturing development. The 5G test bed industrial trials by Bosch and Yamazaki Mazak earlier this year is one such example of IoT technology and the ‘smart factory’ becoming a reality.
EVOLUTION OF SKILLS SHORTAGE
Our work with tech start-ups, automation specialists, research and innovation centres and businesses adopting smart technologies, tells us that we are the skills shortage is still escalating in the UK and in particular, that new skills are required in enormous numbers in order to achieve the promise of Industry 4.0.
The skills deficit has been an ongoing concern; however, skill-sets have typically been within familiar, established fields – the practical elements of manufacturing; electronics, design, functional safety and manufacturing engineering to name but a few.
The skills/functions required to aid transformation are still being defined. There are no standard job titles or person specifications and parameters to reference and this makes it incredibly difficult for business leaders to define roles and to attract the right candidates. In fact, many businesses don’t even really know what their ideal candidate looks like; the precise experience and skills rarely exist in the open market.
It is pof course to be expected – with rapid change come new technologies, new roles and new requirements. This is perhaps the key difference between the skills shortages of the last 20 years in comparison to today.
HOW TO APPROACH THE 4.0 SKILLS SHORTAGE?
UPSKILL AND RETRAIN EXISTING WORKFORCES
Education and retraining will be critical to adapting new technologies as old business models become obsolete. Workforces are going to change and employees need to be given the opportunity to thrive in the new digital landscape. There are a number of reports suggesting a widening disparity between the technology and the talent needed to compete in the Industry 4.0 world. Workforce planning will be crucial and business leaders need to ensure that the business culture is adaptable; looking for opportunities to alter behaviour and ways of thinking to fully embrace change.
REDEFINING JOBS AND JOB TITLES
We have had instances where our clients have been unsure what to name a role. New positions that are not yet in the mainstream, are difficult to brand and can easily risk either being entirely overlooked by active talent or actually alienating applicants who do not find the titles appealing.
Job adverts can create prejudice and advertising for non-traditional roles may not be the best route to market. Consider that your ideal candidates will be passive and will need to have the role fully explained to them – be prepared to sell the opportunity as candidates may not have previously considered a role like this or a company in your space.
UPSCALING AND SKILLS MAPPING
We have seen a number of businesses at the forefront of advanced engineering ready to scale up production, particularly within niche tech industries. These businesses have often reached a cross-roads – a point where they just can’t find any more suitable people to match their business needs. In these instances, skills mapping has been highly effective to understand where pools of talent are geographically located, particularly when deciding the where to invest in the location of new premises.
For many other businesses, location is simply no longer an obstacle to effective hiring. Remote working and flexible working is quickly replacing the traditional 9-5. Cloud-based services and advances in cyber security are removing the shackles of office-based working. We are seeing this particularly with digitally focused positions such as developers and software engineers, who can be based anywhere in the world and still be just as effective at their jobs.
Because of Brexit, there are people who perhaps are ready for their next career move but due to the economic uncertainty, have decided to batten down the hatches and stay put. We have found that using specialist contractors can provide a short-term boost to achieving business goals whilst allowing businesses to remain agile in an uncertain market. Contractors can also provide expert guidance and advice, can hit the ground running and solve problems quickly, which can not only help with futureproofing, but also provide a flexible alternative to and saving on full-time staff for projects with 12 to 18-month lifecycles.