The Scotsman

Now is the right time to plan for our fu­ture work­force

The Fourth In­dus­trial rev­o­lu­tion is upon us, and it is the younger gen­er­a­tion that will drive in­no­va­tion, says Karen Ste­wart

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Well, what can I say? While not wish­ing to be repet­i­tive, I do feel it is nec­es­sary to dis­cuss the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion and move into an an­gle that is hugely im­por­tant and may be a lit­tle for­got­ten by some.

Times are chang­ing. In ways many of us would never have imag­ined. Many of us did not see this com­ing. Most of us did not plan for this.

Prior to Covid com­ing into our world, em­ploy­ment was high, the war on tal­ent was fierce and ini­tia­tives to at­tract young peo­ple into the STEM in­dus­try were thriv­ing. Nine Twenty had just run our first In­sphire event, which was aimed at show­cas­ing In­dus­try 4 to fam­i­lies, teach­ing them how the job mar­ket would be a changed place for their chil­dren and what their fu­ture op­por­tu­ni­ties may look like. The trac­tion and sup­port from in­dus­try was huge and over­whelm­ing. It all felt so pos­i­tive. We had com­pa­nies lin­ing up to work with us, see­ing the ben­e­fits of de­vel­op­ing the skills needed for our fu­ture work­forces. As a board mem­ber of Ceed, I know that this is a shared pas­sion wear­ing both of my hats – the fu­ture tal­ent pool is crit­i­cal to a healthy in­dus­trial sec­tor.

Then came C ovid -19, lock down kicked in and ev­ery­one went into fire­fight­ing mode. All the ex­cit­ing add-on projects seem to have been pushed to the back of a never end­ing to-do-list.

I too have been guilty of all the above. How­ever, the more I have thought about things, the more I see that now is the time to plan for our fu­ture work­force. They will be the ones to drive in­no­va­tion in the new era, the new nor­mal what­ever that looks like.

Our gen­er­a­tion is caught in the midst of this shift. In­dus­try 4 talks about au­toma­tion. But it also talks about new laws in so­ci­ety, no town cen­tres, vir­tual ex­pe­ri­ences. Covid has kicked us right up the back­side and is push­ing us into our new era. The fourth In­dus­trial rev­o­lu­tion. It is here and will only de­velop at pace.

This is an era that will see in­dus­tries go and new ones we had never even con­sid­ered be de­vel­oped. In­no­va­tion is key as is the abil­ity to adapt. The new jobs and in­dus­tries we see pop up may also dis­ap­pear as new tech­nolo­gies and ideas are de­vel­oped. There­fore, it is key that we build work­forces who can com­mu­ni­cate, adapt at pace, have con­fi­dence and skills around STEM and tech­nol­ogy.

Be­fore Covid ar­rived, skills in the sec­tor were hard to come by, be it in en­gi­neer­ing, qual­ity, pro­duc­tion, tech­ni­cal, projects, ma­te­ri­als, lo­gis­tics. Where some peo­ple have the skills on pa­per, we would find many had not adapted the soft skills re­quired for our ever-de­vel­op­ing em­ploy­ment mar­ket. For ex­am­ple, op­er­a­tor level roles have been be­com­ing more ad­vanced where data anal­y­sis and de­ci­sion mak­ing has be­come more im­por­tant, but many oper­a­tors have not been trained and coached into this way of think­ing. This needs work and it needs to be now. It is too im­por­tant to be ig­nored.

What train­ing, de­vel­op­ing, up­skilling your work­force were you do­ing be­fore Covid? Well, you need to keep on do­ing it, as well as look­ing at new and in­no­va­tive ways of join­ing in with ini­tia­tives. Col­lab­o­rat­ing with oth­ers will be key to us all mak­ing a dif­fer­ence and work­ing with or­gan­i­sa­tions like Ceed can be of real ben­e­fit, as they help com­pa­nies solve prob­lems to­gether.

Please do not put this to the back of your list. As our mar­kets move for ward, we will con­tinue to be held back by the lack of tal­ent in our sec­tor. I have seen this theme con­tin­u­ally in my whole 13-year ca­reer in re­cruit­ment and it will not go away.

Karen Ste­wart, MD, Nin9 Twenty En­gi­neer­ing and Man­u­fac­tur­ing

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