Tackling the talent shortage with UTCs

5th April 2023
Kiera Sowery

Between the widening skills gap, digital revolution and skills mismatch, STEM businesses in the UK are struggling to find and secure top talent.

There is an ongoing mismatch between the skills employers say they need, and the skills employees think they need, with 20% of the workforce in the UK set to be significantly under skilled for their jobs by 2030. In the UK, two thirds of businesses said they struggle to recruit employees with the skills they need.

The CIPD’s 2018 report, ‘Over-skilled and underused’ discovered 37% of workers have the skills to cope with more demanding duties, and that 12% lacked the skills needed to carry out their current job effectively. This suggests a skills mismatch. The UK is producing highly trained individuals but not in the areas where industry desperately requires technical skills.

There is also a greater emphasis and importance on transferable and digital skills, instead of linear thinking skills prioritised by the current school system.

It’s necessary to find a solution that works for all, and it’s quite possible this could be university technical colleges.

University technical colleges (UTCs) are government-funded schools with a STEM focus, providing a unique and relevant approach to education which addresses the changing needs of students and employers in the 21st century. UTCs provide sought-after technical qualifications and benefits from industry standard equipment and specialist staff, providing students with skills valued by employers.

The mission of UTCs is to provide young people with a relevant education in a fast-paced world, giving employers access to the skilled workforce needed for UK industry to thrive.

At CloudExpo 2023, industry leaders Amazon Web Services, Yondr, CyrusOne and CNet Training talked through their success at tackling the talent and skills shortage through UTCs.

Paul Hood, COO, Global Data Centre Operations, Yondr Group came from an apprenticeship background, where he discovered how he excelled with practical learning methods. He is part of the UTC partnership to give back, as he was once a 16-year-old that someone took a chance on. He urges any businesses to get involved with the UTC programme, explaining how it is a lot of work and commitment, takes great engagement and passion, but is extremely rewarding.

Riccardo Degli Effetti, Data Centre Operations Cluser Leader, AWS said that joining the UTC programme was “possibly the fastest decision I’ve ever made in my life.” The benefits from the programme will be long-term, supporting both students and the UK workforce. When Effetti got involved in a CV writing workshop he explained that his team were as enriched, if not more, as the children and teachers that were there.

Each UTC works with a network of local industry partners to design a learning programme which covers not only the core curriculum of English, Maths and Sciences, but also sought-after technical qualifications taught by specialist staff with industry standard equipment.

The UTC programme has a strong emphasis on employer engagement, including real-life project-based learning, which engages students and develops their personal attributes. On leaving a UTC, students have already established connections with local employers, have applied practical skills through project-based learning and are used to working in a professional environment.

This is how the UTC programme creates highly employable individuals, setting them up for a broad choice of pathways at 18.

There is no doubt that UTCs help to fill huge national skills shortages in the STEM industries.

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