Never has the need for home-grown talent been more urgent. As the CBI has alerted us, almost a third of UK businesses are seriously affected by skills shortages.
Too many are tempted to plug the skills gaps with workers from abroad, and while no one would deny that a diverse workforce can enrich an organisation, there is a danger that businesses will grow used to applying a plaster when a tourniquet is needed.
This tourniquet should take the form of dialogue between unions, employers, sector skills bodies and schools, so that everyone can map out where the gaps are likely to be and how they could be filled.
But it isn’t just about attracting young people, or criticising them because they want a recording deal or football stardom rather than a career in engineering or nursing. It’s also about opening our eyes to recruiting from all age groups and making apprenticeships and NVQs available to a wider group of people.
A contributing factor is to be seen to value the quali-fications that are on offer and to map out career paths that help staff to believe in progression and loyalty.
We also need to ‘talk up’ the UK’s achievements and foster self-belief.
The engineering sector is doing many of these things – as you will see in our analysis on page 10. But you will see that it also needs more initiatives, such as better backing for apprenticeships, which is why we are putting out a major alert – Save Our Skills – an SOS call for the UK.
Don’t let the UK become a sinking ship.
Stephanie Sparrow, editor