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Banging heads together to solve the skills conundrum

30 November, 2021

Gambica has created a group that brings together academics with industry representatives in an attempt to move forward in solving the perennial problem of how to create a skilled workforce for the future. Nikesh Mistry*, Gambica’s sector head for industrial automation, reports on the group’s activities and the progress it has made.

A recurring topic of conversation among Gambica members in recent years has been the need to ensure that our future workforce has the skills, ability and drive to want to succeed in industry. Ten years ago, many of the jobs in industry today didn’t even exist, and we are constantly seeking ways of using technology to create more jobs.

But we must not forget those who will be doing the jobs: our future workforce. They require the same level of attention – if not more – than we are giving to digital transformation.

Of course one of the best ways of doing this is to reach out to directly to universities, colleges, schools and students – even those at younger ages who haven’t yet decided how they would like their careers to unfold. They are the generation that will shape the future of our industry.

We need drastic changes in how engineering and STEM subjects are perceived, not only in the media but also in the institutions mentioned above. It is so common for younger generations to believe that engineers labour all day in hard hats in loud/messy environments. That most certainly isn’t always the case anymore. We need to educate the educated to challenge these negative perceptions of STEM subjects.

One way that Gambica has acted to help in this quest has been to form our Industry and University collaboration group. We created this group with aim of exploring how industry and academia can collaborate and engage with industrial members, schools and sixth form colleges, collaborative research and policy. The group is exploring methods and practices that we could use to deliver value to students, university staff and industry members to augment teaching materials and equipment, offer relevant work placements, focus research, access industrial technology and data, and ultimately retain talent in careers in our industry.

We have hosted an online event, called Building the Blueprint, not only to inform our members about the work that the group have been doing over the past 12 months, but also to take away a list of tangible actions that we can work on to meet the needs of both our industrial and academic members. Sometimes the action is as simple as connecting the right people together. It is often the case that a role will exist in industry but members aren’t sure who to contact in academia to place them, and vice versa. Gambica has decided that, with our pool of experts, we are best placed to bridge this gap and end the separation that has existed for so long.

Too often we hear about the dreaded vicious circle: “I can’t find a job because I have no experience, but I can’t get experience because I can’t find a job”. The irony is ridiculous and we have only ourselves to blame. This is a common issue and it stems (if you’ll pardon the pun) directly from the miscommunication and lack of transparency between academia and industry. We are most certainly not too late to close this gap. In a similar way to the gap that exists between the IT and OT when it comes to digitalisation, all we need to do is to push in the right direction.

At the event that we organised, we discovered that there are many challenges faced by universities and industry when it comes to collaboration. From funding opportunities, to awareness of how easy it is to join onto programmes like the STEM ambassador scheme. It is small steps such as these that we can use to help shape our future workforce. Our aim is to take the findings from our events and put them into effect with the hope of establishing best practice for both universities and industry going forward.

* Gambica is the trade association for the automation, control, instrumentation and laboratory technology sectors in the UK.

For more information, please contact Nikesh Mistry on 020 7642 8094 or via

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