Industry Skills Shortage is an Academic Problem
Failure to offer electronics education and training courses is causing skills shortages says Paul Mullis, part of the senior radio team at Avoira.
Having long played second fiddle, it’s great that STEM subjects have been championed by academic institutions.
But when it comes to the STEM family, it seems electronics has become the poor relation.
Despite the new emphasis on science subjects, educational establishments have moved away from electronics.
To be fair to academic administrators, I’m sure they are mindful of how technology has developed and the impact this has on many employers’ needs.
Much kit has gone beyond traditional electronics, becoming more integrated and complex. This can mean when it fails, there’s no fix. It’s great for the vendors, not so good for technical support engineers.
Everything is also more software than hardware dependent.
Academic and vocational qualifications are heavily skewed towards coding. This is understandable because there’s strong demand for those skills.
But nonetheless there remains a need for our young, aspiring engineers and technical sales specialists to have a basic understanding of how electrons move around a circuit. It’s not just about how data flows.
In the two-way radio industry and other sectors such as industrial control and automation, a solid grounding in electronics remains vital. Process control relies on electronic processors, connected to sensors which monitor, say, temperature or flows to optimise efficiency and safety.
The utilities too. The water and waste treatment sector is reportedly struggling to recruit instrumentation technicians because the reservoir of skills has dried up.
There’s a significant amount of legacy kit out there too. Avoira is still maintaining systems that were first installed in the mid-1990s.
For the employer the dearth of qualification paths is a real headache. One apprentice we recruited faced a journey of 150 miles-plus to pursue an electronics course.
Those who do join us are luckier than most. Avoira takes training and career development seriously. We give our employees a great deal of support.
Avoira’s managing director, Andy Roberts, and I both started our careers as apprentices, working on the benches. We know, from personal experience, how important it is to gain that initial electronics grounding and to then supplement it with ongoing training and that invaluable qualification, experience.
Whilst we are well equipped to pass on knowledge and skills, it’s nonetheless a concern to us, that our colleges continue to give electronics the cold shoulder.
This is an education our young engineers need – and the skills which flow from it remain in demand within a number of important UK industries.
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