Closing the skills gap in engineering and electronics manufacturing is a topic that comes up for discussion time and time again. And many SMEs and large international companies within the industry have already taken positive steps to meet the demand for attracting and securing highly-skilled new talent.
The value of apprenticeships is clearly well understood, with 2017 seeing the highest number of new engineering related apprenticeships in England for ten years, according to a report by Engineering UK.
Alongside apprenticeships there are also summer internships, year-long placement schemes and graduate schemes, all of which are helping to introduce the right people to the industry. As the popularity of these schemes continues to grow, so too are the numbers of candidates applying, and the high quality of skills they have to offer.
So how can you ensure you are attracting the very best new talent in electronics manufacturing? Here are our 6 top tips to help get you started and guide you in the right direction.
Partner with local education facilities
From secondary schools to colleges right through to university, partnering with education facilities can often give you access to new talent with interests and skills that are aligned to your business goals. Many educational institutions host careers fairs and help facilitate applications or placement schemes. These events offer a degree of support to both you as an employer and to the student hoping to undertake a role within your business.
You may also find that, as part of this partnership, you or a representative of your company are invited to participate in the students' learning by delivering relevant presentations or workshops. These events can be a great opportunity for you to develop relationships early on and are also a good way of getting your company noticed by prospective students as a potential provider of future career choices.
Offer a range of training schemes at different levels
Not all businesses will have the resources in-house to offer every type of training scheme. So if you only offer one type of programme, for example an apprenticeship, there is a risk you will be missing out on other talent somewhere along the line.
Ideally you want multiple ‘touch points’ with students right the way through, from schools and colleges to university. The best talent programmes feed into one another. For instance, a summer internship will make students aware of your apprenticeship programme. The apprenticeship programme can make students aware of your placement schemes, and the placement schemes can act as a springboard towards a graduate position. The more training options you have, the wider you can cast your talent net.
Creating a training scheme from scratch will take time and commitment. However once you have something in place, you will find that adapting it to suit a different age group or skill set is relatively straight forward. As we mentioned before, most educational facilities will be happy to take a look over your proposed scheme and supporting documents and provide hints and tips on what they believe their students will want to see.
Develop a dedicated ‘talent nurturing team’
Running multiple training schemes to attract new talent can be a daunting prospect, especially if they are not clearly managed with defined objectives. Empowering an internal team, dedicated to ‘nurturing’ this talent and overseeing the programmes, will help ensure they succeed.
We recommend your team is made up of members from various departments i.e. HR, the department specific to the scheme (engineering, sales, procurement etc.), a relevant mentor (past apprentice or graduate), and so on. This provides the new starter with a contact within different areas of the business should they need assistance, and ultimately means they don’t have to rely on just one person for support.
Having a ‘cross functional’ team in place also helps ensure the training goals and objectives of the company are shared, ownership is agreed, training plans are developed consistently and the new starter receives a level of stability from day one.
Promote your schemes at recognised events
If prospective applicants don’t know that your scheme exists, then how can they apply? If you’ve taken our first set of advice and partnered with an education facility, then a number of students should now be aware of your training schemes. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean you are reaching the very best talent so you will also need to promote your offering yourselves.
Attending exhibitions such as What career live? and university sponsored careers fairs are good ways to reach larger pools of talent and can greatly help in getting your company noticed.
We recommend going prepared with branded merchandise and handy flyers outlining the benefits of your scheme, along with answers to some of the more frequently asked questions you think exist. You won’t be the only ones fighting for this new talent so you need to make sure you are remembered on the day amongst a sea of competitors.
Attracting new talent to your business can be difficult. There is a lot of competition out there and any training scheme you put in place needs to be seen as ‘competitive’ to those applying.
Of course, we all know salary isn’t everything but it’s certainly going to be one of the first things a student looks at. So how do you compare to the rest of your market?
When you start researching placement and graduate salary expectations you’ll find that they can vary hugely. Take for example Aldi, their graduate scheme offers an above average salary and a fully expensed company car from day one. But with this salary and all the perks comes huge responsibility and pressure to deliver results in the first 12 months. Is this how you want to run your own scheme? Maybe, maybe not, it comes back to your business goals and objectives.
Unfortunately you’ll never be able to compete on salary alone, there will always be someone out there ready to offer a higher number than you so you need to make sure all of your other benefits are made clear to those applying. And don’t underestimate how valuable some of these will be. For example, the opportunity of future funded personal development could be a huge attraction to some students. So might a clean and relaxed working environment. What about social events and activities that take place throughout the year? If you’re struggling for inspiration why not ask a group of your current employees what they like best about working for your company?
Make sure your application process and expectations are clear from the outset
Building talent programmes can be daunting for you and your business but imagine what it feels like for the students applying! Each company will have a different approach when it comes to the application and interview stages. For example, some companies hold Open Days to give potential candidates the chance to meet some of their team and have a look around their facility before they apply to gauge whether or not the company feels like a good ‘fit’. Others will jump straight to formal interviews. Some interviews will include a variety of ‘tests’ or activities whereas others might just be a relaxed face to face conversation.
To some extent it doesn’t really matter what your approach is, providing it helps you arrive at the right decision. What is important though is making sure the candidates are aware of what is likely to take place on the day so they can prepare accordingly. A rough outline of what the recruitment process involves and some timings should suffice.
Hopefully these six tips have helped in guiding you to secure the best new talent in electronics manufacturing. Our advice is by no means exhaustive and we welcome comments below with any of your own tips and techniques that have helped you and your business attract and successfully recruit new talent into the industry.
Good luck with the hunt!
Image by Joe Lodge