Engineering Sector Skills Group

The Engineering Sector Skills Group come into being in 2006 based on an initiative between the Isle of Man Chamber of Commerce Engineering and Manufacturing Committee and the Department of Economic Development within government. Its aim - to ensure sector companies are able to recruit local people with the required skills so the sector can be sustained and grow here on our island in support of the government's strategy to grow a diverse, dynamic economy.

Under the umbrella of the Isle of Man Chamber of Commerce (use link here for more information) the Engineering and Manufacturing Committee (EMC), which represents all engineering and manufacturing companies who have joined the Isle of Man Chamber of Commerce, had for several years during the early 2000's seen the ability to employ local people in their companies decreasing due to two primary reasons:

  • a shortage of appropriate skills, and
  • a shortage of people understanding the opportunities offered by an engineering career.

As a result, during the latter part of 2005, a review of the employee composition of the nine major employers of the EMC was performed and a demographic was produced (see Figure 1 which shows the employee demographic).

 

The demographic showed the composition of employees with regard to generic job role and age. It showed that all employers had the highest number of employees in the 41-50 years of age bracket, and the least in the less than 20 and 21-30 brackets.  This confirmed concerns that companies were not able to attract and retain the lower age groups in the numbers needed.  It was concluded that if nothing was put in place to change this, the sustainability of companies in 10-15 years could be threatened.

Now acutely aware of the issue, the EMC and Department of Economic Development (DED – Government Department) launched an initiative where an Engineering Sector Sector Skills Group (ESSG) was created in May 2006 linking the private and public sectors to discuss and put forward actions to address the skill gaps.  The ESSG has representatives from:

  • Sector companies (via EMC, Isle of Man Chamber of Commerce),
  • Department of Economic Development,
  • University College Isle of Man,
  • Secondary schools, and
  • Careers service.

The ESSG has met once a month since it’s creation and will continue to do so until the skills issues have been addressed. 

This innovative and proactive approach with private businesses and government working together gave rise to the ESSG agreeing in 2007 to two new significant actions in particular:

  1. Employment of an Engineering and Manufacturing Sector Skills Champion to ensure the focus that was needed on actions and activities. The ESSG is voluntary and it was proving difficult for everyone to put in the time needed to move things along at the pace needed as well as do the ‘day job’ back at each organisation. The appointment of such a Champion was the answer to this by engaging Cloud Nine Ltd, which appointed Adrian Harrison in this role in November 2007. Adrian is a local chartered Engineer who has worked with Manx Airlines (becoming British Airways prior to sale to Flybe in 2007) and BAE Systems and has worked in an Engineering environment since 1987.

  2. The creation of the Awareness of Careers in Engineering (ACE) Programme which was formally launched in February 2008 at the island's Employment and Skills Careers Event held at the Villa Marina (see link here for more information on the ACE Programme). The programme was set up to help address the skills issues.

The ESSG continues to oversee activities with the aim of changing perceptions towards the sector and rejuvenating interest in engineering as a rewarding and satisfying career. We are starting to see some positive changes - recruiting local people with the skills needed is starting to get easier as more people become aware of our sector, what it can offer in terms of career and lifestyle, whilst contributing the island's economic diversity.

The job is not complete yet so we anticipate that ESSG will continue, along with the ACE programme and activities until today's youngsters (that have been part of the ACE programme) are parents and they themselves have children who grow up in a society that understands engineering better and where more people want to get involved with engineering as a career.