In the second half of 2018, the Electrotechnical Skills Partnership (TESP) commissioned major research into electrotechnical skills issues. Over 450 firms contributed to this survey, of all sizes and from every part of the UK.
Most respondents were relatively upbeat about short and medium-term business prospects. Many were less optimistic, however, about their ability to attract and retain enough workers for a growing workload, particularly skilled electrical operatives and above.
Several survey questions focussed on attitudes to new technology. This theme was then explored further through in-depth qualitative interviews with 36 participants.
Most of the 36 agreed that new technologies will have a significant business and technical impact over the next five to ten years. Only a minority (10 to 20 percent), however, reported their own firms as already undertaking work in one or more of the ‘new’ areas. Smaller firms especially are more likely to adopt a ‘wait and see’ attitude, some citing negative experiences with aspects of solar PV as a warning against leaping straight in.
Shortfalls in current workforce skills and problems with the training system might also be contributing to slower uptake of new technologies and techniques. Quite a few respondents complained about insufficient knowledge and skills in new areas, especially among older workers, whilst the cost, time and content of training were criticised by some.
Although 29 percent expressed satisfaction with current industry qualifications, some (22 percent) felt that college tutors need updating on modern techniques and equipment and/or that now is the time for new technologies to be built into the electrotechnical apprenticeship (23 percent).
ECA is already using these and other survey findings to help inform its policy development and implementation, both on our own behalf and as part of TESP. Concerns expressed about the sector’s ability to attract enough high-quality new entrants support ECA’s strategy of ramping up schools and college engagement this year.
In England, 2019 will also see the first official review of the Electrotechnical Apprenticeship Standard, offering a chance to consider whether, and by how much, new technologies ought now to be included in this fundamentally important vocational standard.
The full survey report can be viewed on the TESP website at: www.the-esp.org.uk.