Closing the Skills Gap – Electronics Talent
Here at ADLIB, we try to do our bit to help ‘bridge the skills gap’ across the sectors we operate in, especially within Technology and Data…
In this context, we’d like to champion UKESF’s mission to encourage more young people to study Electronics and to pursue careers in the sector. The charity focuses on encouraging the future generation to head into electronics engineering. As part of this, please meet Stew Edmondson, CEO of UKESF.
ADLIB: For some background, can you tell us a little bit about UKESF and the work that you do?
Stew: The UKESF is an independent charitable foundation aiming to get more young people interested in careers in Electronics. We were launched in 2010, with the support mainly from the industry as they wanted to ‘something’ to tackle the skills challenge in the Electronics sector. Our work is about raising awareness of Electronics, promoting opportunities to schoolchildren and developing their interest in Electronics through to university study. At university, we support undergraduates and prepare them for the workplace, with a variety of programmes, awards and competitions. We partner with 22 universities, across the UK and work with around 50 companies.
ADLIB: From your perspective, why is it important to tackle the skills shortage for the Electronics & Engineering industry specifically?
Stew: We know that Electronics is the future, it is a sector driven by innovation and rapid technology advances. Engineers and designers are needed to develop the next generation of products and help produce creative technological solutions needed by society. However, too few people appreciate that the UK Electronics industry is a world leader. There is a lack of awareness among parents, teachers and schoolchildren about the opportunities in the Electronics sector; consequently, this makes it harder to address the skills shortage and to continue to build organisations that harness innovation and creativity
ADLIB: You work with a range of educational establishments. How do you advise them to inspire the future generation for careers in the engineering profession?
Stew: First of all, we need to raise the profile of Electronics.
Too few young people realise that it is Electronics that enables the Technology and devices that they use every day. Our promotional campaign “Turn OnTo Electronics” aims to raise awareness about Electronics.
Secondly, we believe that focusing on the curriculum is the key to reaching more pupils effectively. We know that record numbers of pupils are studying STEM subjects at A-level, including Maths, Physics and Computing; However, only a fraction of these pupils then go onto study Electronic Engineering. Therefore, we need to raise the profile of Electronics within these subjects. This is what our “Electronics Everywhere” project, developed with our colleagues at the University of Southampton, is all about.
By delivering CPD training in Electronics to Computing and Physics teachers and providing their schools with classroom sets of practical kits, we will enhance the teaching in A-level classes and promote Electronics. Our aspiration is to ensure that we put Electronics Everywhere in every school in the year over the next three years.
ADLIB: If you could give one piece of wisdom to an 8-year-old kid in the context of an electronics career, what would it be?
Stew: If you’re thinking about a future in Electronics and Engineering, the first step is to discover more, and we collaborate with a number of organisations across the UK that provide great opportunities for school pupils – have a look at https://www.turnontoelectronics.org/where-to-next/ for a directory of opportunities.
At school there might be an Electronics Club you can join – or ask a teacher to start one – and at home, you could ask your parents for something like a Raspberry Pi (a low-cost credit-card sized computer that can be used for a variety of projects) to help you get started learning about Electronics.
ADLIB: In your opinion, what can businesses be doing to assist with closing the E&E skills gap?
Stew: We firmly believe that industry, as well as universities, have a part to play in ensuring the future pipeline of Electronics graduates. One way of doing this is to provide work placements for students; investing in undergraduates to give them practical real-world experiences that complement their academic studies is a real ‘win-win’. That said, acting unilaterally can be a bit daunting, which is why we are finding more companies are joining our Scholarship Scheme.
ADLIB: How can kids and students be exposed to the opportunities out there, to see where building skills in Electronics can really take them?
Stew: [see answer above] and have a look at our #TurnOnToElectronics campaign video!
Thank you so much for sharing, Stew!