T+E Skills: Providing a voice for skills

Dr Benjamin Silverstone, Skills and Workforce Transformation Specialist at WMG, University of Warwick discusses the launch of Transport + Energy Skills and highlights the opportunities and challenges that both sectors face in this area.

There is no more pressing and existential challenge than that of ensuring that our workforce has access to effective training and development to enable businesses to remain competitive, and thrive, in the rapidly changing environment in which we now operate.

I have the opportunity to talk about skills in a variety of settings ranging from technical conferences, policy inquiries and when consulting with individual organisations and the feedback I receive is the same; we need better guidance on what impact changes will have, we need to know how this will impact on our businesses and the investment we need to make in training and we need to know where to access the training to enable us to adapt. In my view we are rapidly reaching a tipping point where, if we are going to remain at the forefront of transport and energy capability, we need to see a shift to widely available high-quality training and development. 

The UK has made huge progress in improving the range of training on offer in the field of electrification over the past few years. In 2021 “An opportunity for a National Electrification Skills Framework and Forum” was published and set out how the country should approach ensuring we can effectively respond to change.

There are key concepts that underpin the drive to provide skills for the future of electrification. The approach must be a national effort, consistency is required to ensure that people can move from one employer to another without significant re-training where the role is essentially the same. The idea is to create a common purpose to address the shared challenges. Consistent, and high quality, provision is vital in taking the guesswork out of getting the skills needed.

There needs to be a response to immediate and future needs, ensuring that we can stabilise our position now and build for the future. Consideration is needed of how we are prepare to re-skill, up-skill and new-skill workers to fit the way industries are changing. Finally, there has to be higher levels of collaboration between all parties to ensure that, as a nation, we can achieve. 

Reflecting on this publication I can see how it was a lofty ambition, but it did provide a roadmap for the achievement of the aims and two years later a lot has been achieved. The work that went alongside the publication developed over 50 short courses to address immediate and imminent needs. Published under open government licence these have been downloaded over 2,000 times and a community of providers across the UK has been established.

The newly formed UK Foresighting Hub has been funded to carry forward the work of establishing future capability needs linked to the adoption of new technologies and sectors. The trainer development group has increased the number of providers in the UK that will be able to respond to future capability demands in areas such as battery manufacturing and recycling, PEMD manufacturing, advanced manufacturing and digital. Significant initiatives have been funded to make sure that the UK is able to grow its capability in battery and PEMD manufacture and the work continues to ensure that the sectors that will make use of these technologies have the skilled workforce that they require. 

The National Electrification Skills Framework and Forum has also been funded by Government and is gearing up to become the integrator of all of these initiatives, bringing together stakeholders from across the country to shape how best we react to skills needs in transport, energy and beyond. 

In this series of articles, I will be speaking with leaders who are involved in a range of initiatives linked to the ongoing work discussed here. I will have the opportunity to get their take on how skills needs are evolving and to understand how what they do contributes to the bigger picture. Critically they will be providing calls to action, giving you opportunities to get involved in shaping our response to current and future skills requirements. I once wrote that skills are the currency with which future opportunity will be bought. This is truer now, than ever, but what is different is that we all now have a voice in how we generate that wealth. 

Transport + Energy’s new initiative, Transport + Energy Skills, in partnership with the WMG at the University of Warwick is a project will highlight the sectors’ shortage and provide insight, information exchange and solutions to progress a major re-skill, up-skill and new-skill of workers, to fit the way industries are changing and ensure UK companies are competitive. Find out more information about the initiative here.

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