The UK has long been seen as a design powerhouse in the world rankings yet seems to tumble down the global leagues regarding manufacturing.
It’s a perception we need to reverse if we are to continue at the top of the industrial table, but how do we go about it?
That is the question many experts and companies have continued to struggle with, especially with a lack of a government-backed Industrial Strategy to reinforce the innovation that takes place on shopfloors and R&D facilities from Kent to Sunderland.
For too long, some of the world’s most advanced technologies have been developed here in the UK, only for the major economic gains and employment opportunities to be enjoyed overseas.
This brings us to the electrification race.
We are currently ahead of many global competitors, that’s the good news. However, if we transition to zero-emission vehicles, it is anticipated that more than 169,000 new positions will need to be filled.
These will be by engineers, designers, supply chain professionals, R&D specialists, quality managers, apprentices and, importantly, thousands of experts from the power electronics, machines and drives (PEMD) sectors.
The latter is, in fact, a massive opportunity in its own right. If action is taken now the UK can still become a hotbed for the production and development of PEMD, generating over £12bn of domestic revenue by 2025 according to government research.
However, skills and training people were the most significant barriers that dominated discussions at the Electric Revolution Skills Hub (ERS Hub) launch in Birmingham in March.
The opportunity is huge, and it’s widely acknowledged that we have some of the brightest minds in the industry. We do seriously need to look at capacity and capability, ensuring we have the people in place - with the right skills - to take advantage of the emerging demand.
The eye-watering 169,000 jobs figure was used to grab attention and highlight the opportunity and the risk of not doing anything. That number is just the tip of the iceberg, as electrification touches many industries, including aerospace, agriculture, energy and marine.
What we need to do is bring all parts of our community together, to share best practices, raise the profile of the sector and, importantly, map out some of the skills required and pathways for people looking to switch careers and young people selecting their career path in schools and colleges.
This is what we’ve tried to create with the ERS Hub, an integrated digital platform that will give inclusive access to training, development, and jobs.
At its heart will be the Body of Knowledge, which will promote a consistent view of PEMD and build a consensus for the disciplines required to upskill the UK workforce.
It will help businesses attract new individuals to work in electrification and support growth in this vital industry by making training courses – including electrical engineering, laminations, motors, automation, and 3D printing - easy to find through a comprehensive catalogue.
Delivered by Coventry University and funded in partnership with UKRI and Innovate UK, the ERS Hub will host the industry’s first jobs board purely for electrification, providing a constantly updated list of available positions, the skills required for those roles and average remuneration.
Nothing like this has been done before and we don’t have all the answers. We feel we have some momentum and just a few weeks after the launch, we have had over 1,000 registered users sign up, 30,000 platform visits, and 560 courses from 225 different providers listed. There are also 100 jobs already live and this figure is growing by the week.
Jaguar Land Rover, Lotus, maxon, Hewland and an army of SMEs have backed the ERS Hub, but this is just the start.
The UK has so much to offer in clean mobility and that’s the message we need to get out loud and clear if we want to be known for being more than just a design superstar.
Electrification could be the race we win and reverse this trend, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs in manufacturing and supporting the next industrial revolution on our shores.
Deepak Farmah, commercial director at the Electric Revolution Skills Hub