As reported in various industry media sources, there is a skill shortage in our industry, or to put it another way, there are more jobs to fill than people available.
On this point, I can only speak from the side of the industry I operate within (retail), however, only recently I’ve encountered circumstances that offer an alternative perspective.
In short, it seems we are unable to hang onto what should be a valued commodity in this sector – older workers.
As the recession has receded, giving way to more investment, you’d expect job opportunities to follow.
But during the dark times, retailers were streamlining their business models, meaning a knock-on effect for their suppliers.
As I write, space projects and manufacturing are on 90 days’ notice, all other projects departments are just ticking over while holidays are enforced on employees to spread the work they have among their workforces.
Furthermore, smaller companies are laying off their improvers and are having to look at other avenues within the industry – this situation doesn’t exactly sell our industry to the kids who are leaving school and weighing up their career options.
I applaud anyone who tries to encourage school leavers to enter our industry, but it’s a hard sell, as the reality can be different to the sales pitch and not a lot has changed since I started as an apprentice.
And this is why, given the current situation, I find that older engineers are being overlooked within the job market.
A couple of guys I know and respect within the industry were paid off through no fault of their own.
They brought vast experience and a willingness to help younger engineers with any problems.
And despite these talking to companies via agencies, they’ve had little joy. So while it stands that you can’t buy experience, in this particular case their age (mid-50s) is stopping them filling the roles that are contributing to the so-called skills gap.
So while we need new blood coming in to the industry, there needs to be the jobs to support them.
But to bolster this, we also need the experience to be there so that can be passed down to younger engineers who are making their way in the industry.
Both need to be working hand in hand in order to make our industry stronger.
So we have a catch-22 situation. We can’t progress if the new recruits don’t have jobs to go into and mentors to guide them.
Anonymous Fridge Guy works as a contractor in the supermarket refrigeration sector