The “skills gap” in UK engineering is well publicised. The OECD has identified a gap in the UK in terms of the provision of intermediate and technical level skills and recent research by the CIPD has established that the apprenticeship system is not functioning well for younger people. Unemployment for 16–24-year-olds is over 10%, compared to 3.8% for the Economy as a whole (July 2022, ONS).

The ONS also reports that overall economic inactivity in the labour force has increased by 522,000 to December 2021 compared to December 2019, 493,000 of these “Inactive” former employees being over 50 years old with skills desperately needed by manufacturers.

According to Hallam HR Manager, Amie Birchall “In the circumstances, it is logical that our recruitment strategy is now based on attracting 16-24 year-olds to join high quality apprenticeship schemes based at the University of Sheffield’s Advanced manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), together with flexible working schemes, particularly for the over 50s, who are simply fed up of rigid work patterns such as continental shifts. In older life many have developed outside interests, often during lockdown, and want to be able to continue to pursue these interests. Employers have to recognise this as the over 50s are voting with their feet at the moment”.

Subject to health and safety requirements contracts may be based on flexitime, part time working, job sharing, task-based assignments, compressed hours, annualised hours, increased holiday entitlement and even working from home if practicable. “For the prospective employee, any proposal for working arrangements will be considered” commented Amie.