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UK plc needs 450,000 skilled technicians by 2020

An 18 month review has revealed an alarming skills gap between the number of technicians in the UK and the 450,000 higher skilled jobs that will be needed by 2020 to boost growth in the economy and ensure the UK maintains a competitive edge.

Steve Holliday (left) John Hayes (centre) and Oliver Letwin (far right)

As part of that review, the Technician Council has launched a set of recommendations to employers, Sectors Skills Councils and professional bodies that will help to fill that gap.

The changing economic and technological landscape across all the sectors has brought sharp focus on the critical role technical skills play not just in engineering, advanced manufacturing and science industries, but also in public administration, service industries and defence. Although demand for technical skills is rapidly increasing, recruitment of technicians is failing to keep pace.

In a bid to reduce this severe skills gap and help the nation regain its number one position for creativity and innovation, employers and other skills champions have pledged their support to advancing a modern class of technician and promoting the ‘professional technician’.

Steve Holliday, CEO of National Grid plc and Chairman of the Technician Council said: “Increasing the pool of home grown technical skills in the UK is good for our economy and good for individuals. There is evidence that our competitors around the world have already recognised the value of technical skills and are taking action to get at the forefront of technology and innovation. There is also evidence that jobs requiring higher levels of technical expertise provide a unique, transferable and increasingly sought after skills – as well as providing an interesting and worthwhile career route.

“The pace of technological development in the modern workplace is creating an urgent and growing demand for higher levels of technical skill and professionalism. An estimated 450,000 job opportunities will be created by 2020, which require these higher skill levels. We need a clear, credible plan of action to up-skill and increase the pool of home grown talent if we are to maintain a competitive edge and boost growth in the UK economy through innovation and creativity.”

The Technician Council has developed a set of eight recommendations following the review. These will generate the momentum needed to build the new ‘professional technician’ standard, increase the pool of home grown technical skills and ultimately, help bridge the skills gap in the UK. These recommendations provide a clear set of practical and pragmatic steps with a business-led approach, which will also appeal to individuals.

The eight recommendations from the Technician Council review are to:
• Endorse and promote ‘professional technicians’ across every sector of employment, within professional bodies or education and training
• Support the registration and professional development of technicians
• Offer active support for ‘professional technicians’ and promote their skills and contributions within the sector
• Improve communications on career choices and include the different training and skills pathways, sector skills transferability, development programmes, gateways to higher levels
• Raise the profile of the ‘professional technician’ in Government communications to the young
• Use the ‘professional technician’ brand as widely as possible
• Promote greater diversity within the technician workforce ensuring the future ‘professional technician’ population is more representative of society
• Sustain the work of the Technician Council to promote and increase the numbers of ‘professional technicians’ over the next three years, ensuring a sustainable platform for the future

Oliver Letwin MP, Cabinet Office Minister and John Hayes MP, Minister of State for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning, took to the platform at the launch stating their full support for the work of the Technician Council to improve the status of technicians and expand opportunity for professional registration.

Letwin said: “Science, Engineering and Technology are central to the Government’s plans for economic prosperity and for improving the quality of life in the UK. This coming together of Government, employers and the professions to promote and recognise great technician careers that provide wage and social mobility is a testament to the work of the Technician Council.”

Hayes added: "It is critical that society properly recognises those people who use that powerful combination of head and hands to further their own prosperity and the nation's success. We must promote the professional standing of technicians, raise their profile and encourage businesses to nurture our home grown talent if we are to ensure we have the skills we need to compete in the high-tech, high-skilled economy of the future. Elevating the practical is at the heart of the Government's plans."

Neil Carberry, CBI Director for Employment and Skills policy, commented: “It is important that young people are made aware of the range of exciting careers open to them if they have technical skills. Meeting employers’ needs for highly skilled technicians will not only help boost growth, it will also support investment that creates new jobs.”

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