A new employment programme funded by the engineering and manufacturing skills charity Enginuity has been launched to enhance industry diversity and equality and address the advanced manufacturing skills gap.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) and ADS, trade association for the UK’s aerospace, defence, security and space sectors, alongside return-to-work specialists STEM Returners, have launched The Aerospace and Automotive STEM Returners Project.
The Project will help STEM professionals on a career break to return to work. It is a response to the fact that, while many Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) acknowledge the business benefits and relevance of diversity, SMEs face different challenges to large employers when it comes to adopting strategies to address this issue.
The sector-wide programme will be launched in two phases, with the first including insight sessions for automotive and aerospace SMEs to learn about the benefits of the programme.
The second phase will establish 12-week programmes within host organisations, facilitated by STEM Returners, to will provide professionals with real work experience and mentoring during their placement. It will also provide support to allow them to seamlessly adjust to life back in work.
Women are underrepresented in both the automotive and aerospace industry, with few holding senior positions.
Fewer than 10% of the aerospace and aviation industry’s engineers are female while women form around 20 per cent of the automotive workforce, but that falls to around 10 per cent at executive level.
It is hoped the programme will enable people on a career break, the majority of whom are women, to return to industry.
Annual research from STEM Returners (The STEM Returners Index) shows the challenges people face when trying to return to work following a career break, with recruitment bias shown to be the main barrier to entry. Returners programmes aim to eliminate that bias.
Natality Desty, founder and director of STEM Returners, said: “We are delighted to be part of this new initiative with industry-leading organisations, who share in our commitment to increase equity in STEM and improve the way people who are on a career break return to work.
“Only by working together, will we make vital changes in recruitment practices, to help those who are finding it challenging to return to the sector and bridge the blue economy skills gap.”
Enginuity is a charity dedicated to finding new ways to close skills gaps in UK engineering and manufacturing, so that employers have the right skills at the right time to adapt faster to change.
Ann Watson, chief executive of Enginuity, said: “Through a unique approach to sector data and deep relationships with UK engineering and manufacturing businesses, we are acutely aware of the skills and labour shortages across the UK’s automotive and aerospace industries and the need to broaden the recruitment pool not only to meet the sectors’ labour requirements but also to drive diversity.
“Enginuity is delighted to be able to subsidise the cost for 10 SMEs to take part in the Aerospace and Automotive STEM Returners Project. We believe that diversity in engineering and manufacturing businesses is key to them being at the forefront of designing, making and maintaining the solutions to society’s greatest challenges.”
SMMT is the leading trade association for the UK automotive sector and is one of the largest associations in the UK.
Yung Tran, director of member services and business development, at SMMT said: “UK Automotive employees have always been the backbone of the industry’s success and are recognised by investors around the world for their world-class talent and productivity. However, advancing technologies means the industry is challenged with recruiting individuals from a wider pool of STEM talent than ever before.
“Access to skilled labour has become an increasing challenge for many businesses within the UK automotive industry, with companies competing for talent with sectors across advanced manufacturing and beyond into technology, logistics and emerging markets.
“We are pleased to support a project which targets its support at SME companies in the automotive supply chain at a time when they must attract a diverse range of talent to support the manufacturing output of the entire sector.
“The STEM Returners Project will benefit five employers who do not have large recruitment or HR functions access to individuals who can build a lifelong career in our industry.”
ADS is the UK trade association for the aerospace, defence, security and space industries in the UK, representing more than 1300 members. More than 90% of ADS members are SMEs.
Paul Oxley, director of government and policy at ADS, welcomed the project by saying: “Current skills and workforce shortages and the meeting of future skills needs is one of the biggest factors threatening our industries’ future success. In fact, two thirds of respondents to a recent ADS survey highlighted the significant impact of critical workforce shortages on their business.
“Moreover, our members repeatedly report more than 10,000 vacancies among their ranks, despite an average salary that is 44% higher than the UK median.
“ADS is delighted to partner with STEM Returners on a pilot project for our sectors, delving into the untapped skills of those on a career break in order to combat the growing critical skills gap.”