Meeting the Engineering Skills Shortage
A trend common to many engineering maintenance departments in the region has emerged in recent years, that of a difficulty to recruit sufficient numbers of good maintenance engineers.
The problem has been one which has slowly developed over a number of years. A failure to recruit new Apprentices in past years lead to a gap in work ready engineers entering the work-pool, this short-fall has now started to come to the fore as many experienced engineers have either left the region or are approaching retirement age.
Whilst many employers have already identified the impending shortage of skills and have actively begun a programme of recruiting apprentices, the plan will take a while to come to fruition. A shorter time scale approach to work hand in hand with apprentice training may help to ease immediate issues.
“People who have hybrid skill-sets, such as technology and project management skills, are likely to be in great demand: employees will need to seek continued training throughout their careers to adapt to the rapidly changing landscape of the UK economy. Furthermore, training the existing workforce – who, unlike graduates, are experienced and have already shown an aptitude for work – will be key to addressing skills shortages”.
Engineering UK Report_2016
An approach taken by many is to up-skill the existing workforce, such up-skilling is taking many different forms including:
- Operator training
Identifying suitable personnel within the existing team of machine operators for fundamental engineering maintenance training is one way that businesses are meeting the skills shortage. The rationale being that if machine operators are able to handle the relatively straight-forward tasks, the maintenance engineers will be free to undertake higher level tasks or planned maintenance to reduce the likelihood of unplanned machine downtime.
If an operator has a working knowledge of Pneumatic systems and common causes of failure, how drives and linkages work and why maintenance tasks such as lubrication are important then they are on the path to assisting in the diagnosis of stoppages.
At a fundamental level,even if a suitably skilled operator is not able to identify the reason for a machine outage, may well be better placed to direct an engineer to the cause of the problem through initial diagnostic checks.
For many engineering teams the need to operate in a ‘lean’ way has lead to a reduction in team size. For many having sufficient numbers of single skilled ‘Electrically’ and ‘Mechanically’ biased engineers is a long forgotten position.
Increasingly industrial engineering maintenance teams are centred around a core team of ‘Dual-skilled’ engineers, those with both a mechanical and electrical skill set. The trend is for up-skilling from a mechanical only bias to include a set of industrial electrical maintenance skills.
In both respects, such training is providing much needed skills enhancement and for many businesses has become a regular style of team structure.