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TREMPLIN

UNITED KINGDOM NATIONAL REPORT 2

Electrical and electronic engineering in the South of England

Dr Pamela M Clayton
Department of Adult and Continuing Education
University of Glasgow

August 2003

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Note
Because of the close similarity of the words ‘employers’ and ‘employees’, the more
colloquial terms ‘workers’ is used for ‘employees’ when referring to respondents are used
throughout this report.
Where answers were to be ranked in order of importance or agreement, 5 was the highest
score and 1 the lowest. Hence scores of 3 and above indicate general agreement, scores of 2
and below general disagreement or low importance.
Reference to the overall survey means that carried out in two sectors in each of the Czech
Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg and the United Kingdom.

1. INTRODUCTION

1.1 The importance of the sector


The electrical and electronic engineering sector is of fundamental importance in any modern
industrial society. It operates not only in mining, manufacturing and construction, where it is
most visible, but also underpins the workings of the service sector where the use of modern
technology is now taken for granted. Electrical and electronic engineering skills are necessary
to produce and maintain computers and computerised systems, medical equipment and
machinery, audio-visual equipment used in education, vehicles, traffic control and
communications systems, not to mention the production and delivery of electricity, gas and
water, and many other areas of life, both domestic and work-related.
This sector was chosen for the survey on the advice of the Confederation of British Industry
(CBI) and confirmed by the Engineering Employers’ Federation (EEF), on the grounds that
there was such a severe skills shortage that firms would be happy to participate, even though
the sector is subject to a great number of surveys already. It was also recommended that the
survey would be of most use if carried out in the area of greatest need, the southern part of
England.
The engineering sector contains many SMEs and a wide range of skill levels, from semi-
skilled manual to engineering professionals, and of types of skill, including not only
engineering skills but the managerial, sales, training, customer relations, financial and
administrative skills that are needed in any company.

1.2 Skills shortages in the sector


According to the EEF, both electrical and electronic engineers are in short supply. Skills that
are in short supply include vocational and key skills, such as leadership, management, team
working (both in hierarchical structures and with peers), communication and managing
change. Furthermore teams can be multi-cultural and multi-lingual, but few firms are
prepared for this. There is a Leonardo project on modern apprenticeships which is looking at
this issue.
Some firms have poor advertising and recruitment policies so are unable to attract enough
suitable candidates.
Older people who leave engineering do so for a number of reasons: their skills become
redundant, there is a lack of re-training by employers and those who have suffered
redundancy may decide to enter a sector which appears to be more secure. For those who
wish to re-skill, there are insufficient funds (see below concerning modern apprenticeships)
and some older people either do not wish to re-train or see the necessity to do so. So
flexibility and openness to change are valuable attributes.

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1.3 Reasons offered for skill shortages
The shortage of skills is seen as due partly to deficiencies in the educational system. The low
number of maths graduates has led to a shortage of specialist maths, science and design and
technology teachers and much of this teaching is carried out by non-specialists. Many primary
teachers in particular lack confidence in their ability to teach these subjects.
Maths, science, design and technology and engineering, which are seen as ‘difficult’ by many
school children, require competent and enthusiastic teachers. Maths and design and
technology teachers are currently offered ‘golden hellos’ to encourage them to enter the
profession, in recognition of the current shortages; but engineering is a complex subject, and
highly resource intensive (requiring access to machinery, design tools, materials, etc), so
teaching it is more expensive than most other subjects and is often not taught to fourteen-
year-olds. Young people, therefore, have little access to engineering qualifications.
There is also the problem that academic qualifications are valued above vocational ones. Thus
there is an emphasis in schools on academic qualifications at the expense of vocational. For
example, the GNVQ part 1 in Engineering, taught mainly by Design and Technology
Teachers, is being replaced from September 2002 by a new GCSE, in order to increase take-
up. A small-scale survey of fifteen- to sixteen-year-olds found that their principal sources of
careers advice were parents and teachers, with career advisers at the bottom of the list.
Teachers do not usually encourage vocational pathways and prefer to steer ‘bright’ students
towards the general academic route. If teachers do promote the sector it is to low achievers,
but in fact intelligence and aptitude are needed.
There are signs of an improvement in mathematical and science performance in schools in
England. The PISA 2000 survey for the OECD found that 15 year olds were significantly
above the OECD average, and only Japanese and Korean pupils performed better on average
(OECD 2001, p. 79). The survey found overall that even socially disadvantaged pupils
benefited from schooling with sufficient resources and specialist teachers (DfES 2001).
Entrants to Higher Education engineering courses too often do not have good enough maths
skills. Furthermore, graduates usually lack specific knowledge of business. In any case, the
SMEs which dominate the sector do not have a history of recruiting graduates and graduates
tend to look for employment in large companies. Some engineering graduates find other
sectors more attractive, as engineering is dominated by a few large firms which are difficult to
get into, and a million very small ones which appear too risky in terms of job security.
A large proportion of owner-managers have no qualifications themselves, left school at
sixteen and see no need for formal training. SMEs often have no HRD or training personnel.
Nevertheless, the statistics for training, which show that SMEs carry out insufficient training,
are based on off-the-job training. If on-the-job training and experience are taken into account
the picture looks rather different. Over their first three years SME employees have to develop
a range of skills because they have to cover a range of jobs, and much training is informal and
therefore not counted - in fact, it is true work-based learning.
In the past many engineers would have entered the industry via the apprenticeship system,
combining work with part-time study over about five years. The modern equivalent is the
Advanced Modern Apprenticeship, a very demanding programme which lasts a minimum of
three years and goes to NVQ levels 3 / 4 (equivalent to between Advanced Level and first
degree). It includes vocational education and key skills. The cost to the employer is about
£50,000. The state contributes around £12,000 of this where the apprentice is aged 16-19 and
£6,000 for 19-24 year olds, but nothing for older people.
A further problem in recruitment is that of image. Engineering has changed from a dirty job to
one which is high-tech and innovative, but it is still seen as one which is men’s work, hard,
dirty and low-skilled. This arises from a misunderstanding of what it really is. As a result few
women or people from ethnic minorities go into engineering. Young people tend to be swayed
by their parents’ opinion; and some parents cannot read English as their first language, and

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most careers information is written in English. Another factor that sullies the image of
engineering is the perception that the sector is characterised by job losses and is in terminal
decline. This is because the public conflates engineering with manufacture, which has
contracted significantly. What the media does not point out is that most of the redundancies
are suffered by people with no or low skills, and there is still a shortage of skilled workers.

2. PROFILE OF RESPONDENTS
Fifty-five firms were represented, ranging in size from two to 250,000 employees. Eight firms
had from zero to ten employees; twelve had from eleven to fifty; nine from fifty-one to 250;
eight from 251 to one thousand; nine from 1001 to ten thousand; and seven over ten thousand.
The size of two is unknown. All but one was located in an urban area (compared to only 60.3
per cent in the whole survey - see European Survey, Annex D, Table D4).
Given that the sector is characterised by a predominance of SMEs (see Report 1, p. 13), large
firms are over-represented in the whole sample. Among the employers, however, the
proportion is more representative, with sixteen SMEs (up to 250 employees), five firms
between one and ten thousand and two very large multi-national corporations.
In this very complex sector is found a large number of types of engineering. This sample
included the following types: design; testing; quality; systems; protection; database
management; surveillance radar; equipment technology; facilities; electromagnetic
compatibility; maintenance; avionics; assembly; integration; software; and
telecommunications (see also Report 1, p. 13).
The number of returns was adequate but there is insufficient matching between firms and
employees. Perhaps understandably, few firms wished the researcher to have access to the
views of their employees, and the majority of employee responses were obtained through
sampling individuals rather than firms. Eleven employees and five employers came from the
same firms.
It should be noted, therefore, that when employer and employee responses are compared, the
comparisons refer to individuals in the same sector but largely in different firms. Given,
however, that this is a survey of the sector rather than of specific firms, the results are still of
interest and generalisable.

2.1 Employers
Twenty-four people designated ‘employers’, representing twenty-four firms, participated in
the survey. Five were owners, seven managing directors, six were managers of local branches
and three were human resource managers. The remaining three were a marketing director, a
design office manager and a human resources assistant. On average, they had spent 11.8 years
in their present job (range, under one to twenty-five years), 14.1 years in their present firm
(range, one to thirty-five years) and 23.4 years in the industry (range, one to forty-six years).
The average number of people managed was 53.7 (range, none to 530), above the average for
the whole survey, which was 38.8 per cent; and the years that the employers in England had
been in their present sectors were also higher (see European Survey, Annex D, Table D1).
The employee survey below suggests that this may be because the age profile is higher.

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2.2 Employees
Of the seventy-five workers from thirty-six firms, 81 per cent were male, and 19 per cent
female (cf. Report 1, p.5, which states that over 90 per cent of engineering jobs are held by
men - but this survey includes white-collar staff as well as professional and technical staff).
The biggest number, 40 per cent, were aged between thirty-five and forty-four. Of the rest,
5.3 per cent were under twenty-five, 14.7 per cent were between twenty-five and thirty-four,
28 per cent between forty-five and fifty-four and 12 per cent fifty-five or more. No persons
beyond retirement age1 were represented, but the age profile is higher than the European
survey average; furthermore, this is a much more male-dominated industry than the survey
average in which males and females were evenly balanced (see European Survey, Annex D,
Table D2.)
Six job types were represented: other technical, 38.7 per cent; professional, 26.7 per cent;
managerial, skilled craft and IT specialists, each 9.3 per cent; and clerical/administrative, 6.7
per cent. Of the fourteen women, five were secretarial/administrative workers, three
professionals, three other technical, two managers and one IT specialist. Again, the sample is
much higher skilled than the survey average, in which only 8.0 per cent were professionals
(see European Survey, Annex D, Table D2.)
On average, the workers had been in their current position for 10.3 years (with a range of one
to forty-five), in their current firm for 9.6 years (with a range of one to thirty-three) and in the
industry for 19.4 years (with a range of one to forty-five). These figures are above the
European survey average and given the higher than average age of the sample may reflect a
relatively low degree of turnover in a high-skilled industry, in that individuals may change
firms but are less likely to leave the industry (see European Survey, Annex D, Table D3).
The average number of people managed was two (with a range of nought to twelve). Fifty-
one of the workers did not have any managerial responsibility. In this case, the sample is
below the survey average of 4.1 persons managed (see European Survey, Annex D, Table
D2).
The majority of respondents were engineers and technicians rather than administrative or
sales staff, though the latter were represented, for example in administration, reception,
clerical and marketing. Some were senior or principal engineers or engineering managers;
some were project leaders; there were maintenance electricians, draughtsmen, technical
support officers. Some were consultants rather than full-time permanent employees; two were
engineering lecturers and one a full-time researcher.

3. SKILL SHORTAGES

3.1 Recruitment
The data here consists of responses to questions, put to both employers and workers, on
workers’ reasons for entering the industry; worker attitudes towards a selection of industries
and occupations; employer and worker assessments of the quality of the jobs provided by
their firms; and methods of recruitment employers found useful compared with workers’
sources of information.

3.1.1 Reasons for entering industry


Employers were asked to indicate their opinion of the importance to their workers of a

1
In the United Kingdom, retirement age is currently 60 for women and 65 for men, though this
disparity is due to disappear.

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number of factors which may have influenced their decision to enter the industry in the first
place. Workers were asked to state which factors had in fact influenced them. The factors
suggested in the questionnaire were: good pay, secure employment, chance to work with
people, opportunities for training, seemed interesting, work environment, good career
prospects, fringe benefits (such as company pension, canteen, crèche, car), well-respected job,
hours of work, good appraisal/guidance system, wanted a change, couldn’t get anything else,
wanted to live in this town/area and always wanted to do it (table 1).
Table 1 Assessment of factors in recruitment to the industry by employers and workers
Employers Workers
Recruitment factors Score Rank order Score Rank order
Seemed interesting 4.0 1 3.9 1
Secure employment 3.9 2 3.8 2=
Good pay 3.7 3= 3.8 2=
Good career prospects 3.7 3= 3.7 4
Work environment 3.5 5 3.4 6=
Well-respected job 3.4 6 3.3 8
The hours of work 3.2 7 3.4 6=
Opportunities for training 3.0 8= 3.5 5
Always wanted to do it 3.0 8= 2.7 12
Fringe benefits 3.0 8= 2.9 9=
Chance to work with people 2.7 11 2.9 9=
Good appraisal/guidance system 2.5 12= 2.1 13
Wanted a change 2.5 12= 2.0 14
Wanted to live in this town/area 2.0 14 2.8 11
Couldn’t get anything else 1.3 15 1.9 15
N 23 74

One worker offered the reason, ‘The opportunity arose’. Another, a woman who was a
director but chose to complete the workers’ questionnaire, commented wryly:
I am married to an engineer. Otherwise I would have remained as a teacher. Someone
had to do the jobs I do - so it was logical for me to do it. I am a director but I do jobs
requiring large range of different skills. My best job description is probably
“dogsbody”.
Both employers and workers ranked ‘seemed interesting’, ‘secure employment’, ‘good pay’
and ‘good career prospects’ as the most important factors, in the same order and giving
similar scores. The two groups were in general agreement that ‘chance to work with people’,
‘good appraisal/guidance system’, ‘wanted a change’, ‘wanted to live in this town/area’ and
‘couldn’t get anything else’ were not factors in entry to the industry. ‘Opportunities for
training’, however, ranked and scored more highly for workers than for employers. Overall,
however, there is a notable convergence between the two groups. This can probably be
explained by most of the employers themselves having a background in engineering, as well
as most of the workers.
In the survey as a whole, the factors rated highest by employers were ‘secure employment’
(4.0) followed by ‘good pay’ (3.8) and ‘work environment’ (3.6), while those rated least
important were ‘fringe benefits’ (2.6) and ‘wanted a change’ or ‘couldn’t get anything else’
(2.7) (see European Report, Annex A, Table A2). Workers ranked ‘secure employment’,
‘seemed interesting’ and ‘work environment’ (3.8) just above ‘good pay’ (3.7) (European
Survey, Annex B, Table B6). Thus, career prospects were rated more highly, both by
employers and workers, in the United Kingdom engineering sample.

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3.1.2 Workers’ perceptions of certain industries and occupations
Workers were asked to give their impressions of a range of industries and occupations, in
order to test the perception that some sectors and jobs suffer from a poor image, which
hinders recruitment (tables 2 and 3).
First they were asked to give their impressions, from very favourable to very unfavourable, of
a range of industries.
Table 2 Workers’ perceptions of industries
Industry Average score out of 5 Ranking
Engineering 3.7 1
Information technology 3.6 2
Health care 3.4 3
Tourism 3.2 4=
Construction/building 3.2 4=
Business 3.1 6
Agriculture 3.0 7
Banking 2.8 8=
Hotels and catering 2.8 8=
Agro-tourism 2.8 8=
Food processing 2.6 11
Insurance 2.4 12
N 75

The top ranked choice, with an average of 3.7 out of 5, was engineering, followed by
information technology, health care, tourism and construction/building. Business and
agriculture were also scored positively, although only in the middle of the list.
Near the bottom of the list were banking, hotels and catering and agro-tourism (the last of
these was understood by very few respondents), with food-processing exceeded only by
insurance in unpopularity.
Since all the respondents worked in the electrical and electronic engineering field, which is
also associated with information technology and building and construction, it is of interest
that most ranked their own industries highly. Health care is a generally popular industry with
the public so its position high on the list is not surprising, but tourism is unexpected.
The results for the overall survey were slightly different, with tourism and IT equal first (3.7),
followed by hotels and catering (3.6) and business and engineering (3.5) (see European
Survey, Annex B, Table B1).
Next, workers were asked to rank occupations in terms of whether they were very good jobs,
very bad jobs or somewhere in the middle of that range (table 3).

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Table 3 Workers’ perceptions of occupations
Occupations Score Ranking
Doctor 4.4 1
Electrical engineer 4.0 2
Lawyer 3.9 3=
Teacher 3.9 3=
Computer programmer 3.8 4=
Nurse 3.8 4=
Police officer 3.7 6
Electrician 3.6 7
Manager 3.5 8
Butcher 3.1 9=
Baker 3.1 9=
Farmer 3.1 9=
Office worker 3.0 12=
Bank clerk 3.0 12=
Factory worker 2.8 14
Dairy worker 2.7 15
Hotel worker 2.5 16
Fisheries worker 2.2 17
N 75

Note that the term ‘electrical engineer’ properly refers to professionals whereas ‘electricians’
are skilled manual workers.
Despite engineering coming top in the industry ranking, electrical engineers, computer
programmers and electricians rank second, fourth and seventh respectively as occupations. In
another popular industry, health care, doctors rank above nurses, although public sympathy is
probably greater for nurses than for doctors. Lawyers and teachers, both knowledge workers,
rank highly.
Butchers, bakers and farmers are skilled occupations and office workers and bank clerks are
white-collar workers, and these fall in the middle of the rankings, whereas factory, dairy,
hotel and fisheries occupations, seen as semi-skilled at best, are rated the lowest.
In many ways this ranking reflects the conventional social class hierarchy, based on a
combination of income and status. The most interesting result is the high position given to
electrical engineers, which indicates pride in this occupation.
Overall, too, the occupation of doctor was ranked first (4.2), followed by manager and
computer programmer (3.9), lawyer (3.8) and teacher and electrical engineer (3.7). Bottom of
the list came fisheries worker (2.7), below factory worker and dairy worker (3.0) and farmer
(3.2) (European Survey, Annex B, Table B2).

3.1.3 Ratings of own firms and jobs


Employers were asked to rate their firms in terms of whether they provided ‘very good jobs’,
‘quite good jobs’, ‘jobs that are neither good nor bad’, ‘quite poor jobs’ or ‘bad jobs’ and
workers were asked to assess their own jobs in similar terms. Ten out of the twenty-three
employers who answered this question stated that their firms provided ‘very good jobs’, and
the remaining thirteen ‘quite good jobs’. Workers were rather less enthusiastic, with twenty-
four (32 per cent) stating they had very good jobs, thirty-five (46.7 per cent) quite good jobs,
eleven (14.7 per cent) one neither good nor bad jobs and five (6.7 per cent) very poor jobs.
Overall, however, the level of satisfaction was quite high.
The employers in the overall survey were much more likely to see the jobs provided by their
firm as ‘neither good nor bad’ (15.9 per cent) and they were less positive than the employers

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in the British engineering survey, with only 30.2 per cent feeling that it provided ‘very good
jobs’ and 53.0 per cent claiming that they provided ‘quite good jobs’ (see European Survey,
Annex A, Table A4). Workers in general were more likely than British engineering workers
to see their jobs as ‘quite good’ (54.3 per cent) rather than ‘very good’ (27.5 per cent), but
similarly there was very little dissatisfaction (European Survey, Annex B, Table B8).
Employers and workers were then asked to assess their firms in terms of pay, security of
employment, opportunities to work with people, opportunities for training, interesting work,
work environment, career prospects, fringe benefits, respected job, hours of work and good
appraisal/guidance system (that is, most of the factors referred to under reasons for workers to
enter the industry) (table 4).
Table 4a Employers’ and workers’ assessment of aspects of the job
Employers Workers
Aspects of job Score Rank Score Rank
Interesting work 4.4 1 4.1 1
Work environment 4.1 2 3.8 2
Opportunities to work with people 3.8 3= 3.5 4=
Respected job 3.8 3= 3.5 4=
Career prospects 3.7 5= 2.7 9=
The hours of work 3.7 5= 3.7 3
Pay 3.5 7 3.5 4=
Opportunities for training 3.4 8= 3.1 7
Security 3.4 8= 2.8 8
Fringe benefits 3.3 10 2.7 9=
Appraisal/guidance system 3.2 11 2.3 11
N 24 75

Although employers were more positive than workers on all aspects of the job, giving none
scores below 3.2, both were in agreement that the best aspects of jobs in the firm were that the
work was interesting, the work environment a good one and the job a respected one. In the
survey as a whole, on the other hand, employers thought pay and security of employment
were the best aspects of jobs in their firms, and fringe benefits and career prospects the worst
(see European Survey, Annex A, Table A5).
In view of the low value placed on ‘opportunity to work with people’ (table 1), it is
interesting that this also scores highly for both employers and workers. Both gave scores of
3.7 for ‘the hours of work’ and 3.5 for ‘pay’ though these were ranked higher by workers than
employers. Both groups placed ‘opportunities for training’ and ‘security’ lower down, with
‘fringe benefits’ and ‘appraisal/guidance system’ at the bottom.
There is one notable disparity between employers’ and workers’ views. Workers were much
less likely than employers to see their jobs as having good career prospects.
Workers in general rated most highly ‘interesting work’ (4.0), ‘opportunities to work with
people’ (3.9), work environment (3.8) and job security and ‘respected job’ (3.6), with fringe
benefits and career prospects at the bottom, which is broadly similar to the British results
(European Survey, Annex B, Table B9).
Given that most of the workers are in different firms from most of the employers, a
comparison was made applying only to firms which supplied both employers and workers for
the survey (table 4b).

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Table 4b Employers’ and workers’ (in the same firms) assessment of aspects of the job
Employers Workers
Aspects of job Score Rank Score Rank
Interesting work 4.2 1= 4.4 1
Opportunities to work with people 4.2 1= 3.5 5=
The hours of work 4.2 1= 3.6 4
Work environment 4.0 4= 4.1 2
Respected job 4.0 4= 3.7 3
Pay 3.6 6 3.5 5=
Opportunities for training 3.4 7= 2.9 8
Fringe benefits 3.4 7= 3.4 7
Appraisal/guidance system 3.4 7= 2.4 11
Security 3.2 10= 2.7 9
Career prospects 3.2 10= 2.5 10
N 5 11

Both sets ranked ‘secure employment’ and ‘career prospects’ at the bottom and ‘interesting
work’ at the top, and gave broadly similar, and positive, scores and rankings to ‘work
environment’, ‘respected job’, ‘pay’ and ‘fringe benefits’. There are, however, some notable
differences. Workers were less positive than employers, both in score and ranking, about
‘opportunities to work with people’, and gave lower scores for ‘the hours of work’,
opportunities for training’ and ‘appraisal/guidance system’.
Their reasons for entering the industry, however, gave low priority to working with people
(score 3.0) and the appraisal/guidance system (2.2). Most important were ‘good career
prospects’ (4.2), ‘good pay’ (4.1), ‘secure employment’ (3.9) and ‘opportunities for training’
(3.8), followed by ‘good work environment’ and ‘fringe benefits’ (3.7), ‘interesting work’
(3.6) and ‘hours of work’ (3.5).
Both sets, however, and despite the unmet expectations of the workers, thought their firm
supplied good jobs, scoring 4.2 (employers) and 4.3 (workers), perhaps because of the high
scores the workers assessing their current firms gave to ‘interesting work’ (4.4) and ‘work
environment’ (4.1). This has implications for recruitment, as the next section will show.
For firms represented by both employers and workers, see the European Survey, Annex C.

3.2 Methods of recruitment


Employers were asked what were the most effective recruitment methods for their firm, while
workers were asked who or what helped them to find out about jobs in this type of work. The
questions are rather different, as workers were answering on the basis of their entry to the
industry rather than to the firm. The scores relate to the percentages of respondents who chose
each category as one of their recruitment methods or sources of information (table 5).

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Table 5 Employers’ recruitment methods and workers’ sources of information
Employers Workers
Recruitment method/source of information Score Rank Score Rank
Advertisements in the general press 58.3 1 35.1 1
Private employment agencies 41.7 2= 20.3 4=
Word of mouth 41.7 2= 20.3 4=
Professional/industry publications 25.0 4 24.3 3
Advice from friends 20.8 5= 18.9 8=
Advice from current or past employees 20.8 5= 31.1 2
The Internet 16.7 7 18.9 8=
The unemployment service 8.3 8 6.8 10=
Stands at trade/career fairs 4.2 9 4.1 12
Advice from teachers .0 0 20.3 4=
Talks in schools .0 0 6.8 10=
Advice from family .0 0 20.3 4=
N 24 74

Four employers added comments. Two refer to what is known as ‘poaching’, that is,
persuading employees from other firms to move: ‘recruit from similar firms in the sector’ and
‘poaching known employees of another company’. One made direct contacts with local firms
undergoing redundancy; and one, a very small firm which used two self-employed engineers
when necessary, had never had to recruit.
Some workers also mentioned other sources of information or inspiration. One had a general
interest in engineering, and one had become interested through reading the ‘Meccano
Magazine’. In two cases, personal contacts were important. One, quoted above, had married
an engineer and another ‘knew the Managing Director’s wife’. Two mentioned careers
guidance, one through a careers office and the other through the Armed Forces Careers
Office. The company’s reputation had attracted one worker; and one had been referred to his
current job by his former employer when making staff redundant.
Both employers and workers ranked ‘advertisements in the general press’ at the top (as did
employers in the general survey, although the use of private employment agencies,
particularly for contract work, is evidently more widespread in British engineering - see
European Survey, Annex A, Table A3) and there is little disparity in the British rankings for
‘private employment agencies’, ‘word of mouth’ and ‘professional/industry publications’.
‘The Internet’, ‘the unemployment service’ and ‘stands at trade/career fairs’ rank and score
low for both groups. What is interesting is that workers reported a far larger range of sources
of information than employers, including ‘advice from teachers’ and ‘talks in schools’, which
were cited by none of the employers; and almost a third cited ‘advice from current or past
employees’, in second place, compared with only one fifth of employers, who ranked it fifth.
Satisfied employees, then, appear to be a potentially valuable recruiting tool.
Workers in general were less likely than the British engineering workers to have got their
information through advertisements in the general press (27.3 per cent) and more likely to
have used advice from friends (35.1 per cent), word of mouth (29.8 per cent), someone they
knew in the job (39.9 per cent) and their families (24.2 per cent) (European Survey, Annex B,
Table B7).

3.3 Problem areas in recruitment


One employer said he had never tried to recruit but 37.5 per cent of the employers stated that
they had problems with recruitment. This contrasts with the EEF estimate of almost 80 per
cent, based on anecdotal evidence and a survey of members in manufacturing (EEF South c.

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2002), but is higher than that made by the Skills Task Force Employers’ Survey that about
one-quarter of engineering establishments in the United Kingdom had skill shortage vacancies
(see Report 1, p. 14). It should be noted that the EEF South sample had a narrower base than
the Skills Task Force Employers’ Survey and focused on manufacturing, in which not all
firms in this survey were involved. It is also lower than in the overall survey, where 59.1 per
cent of employers reported such difficulties (see European Survey Annex A, Table A6).
Nevertheless, the information from the CBI and the EEF that engineering firms in the South
of England constituted the sector with the greatest skill shortages may well be accurate, and
the rate of recruitment difficulties is certainly worrying in such an important industry.
Of the nine employers who reported recruitment problems, seven found that ‘other technical’,
five that ‘professional’ and ‘skilled craft’ and four that ‘sales’ were the hardest posts to fill.
Two reported difficulties recruiting managers, one production line staff and one
reception/customer service. None reported problems obtaining ‘unskilled manual’ or
‘secretarial/clerical’ staff. This largely conforms to previous research in this area (see UK
National Report 1, pp 13-14).
In the overall survey of employers with recruitment difficulties, the greatest problem was to
recruit skilled craft workers (51.5 per cent), followed by professionals (35.1 per cent), and
sales staff (25.3 per cent). Only 17 per cent were short of unskilled manual workers (see
European Survey, Annex A, Table A7). There are, therefore, similarities between this sample
and the whole survey, but a much greater shortage of ‘other technical’ staff in the south of
England. This is due partly to the specialised nature of the industry.
When asked about the post for which they had the greatest difficulty recruiting staff, table 6
shows the reasons, in order of frequency, suggested for the difficulty of filling this post.
Table 6 Reasons for recruitment difficulties given by employers
Reasons Number of Rank
responses
Applicants don’t have the right qualifications 7 1
Pay’s considered too low 4 2
Schools don’t teach young people the right skills 3 3
People don’t want to/can’t afford to live here 2 4
Employment agencies don’t recommend it 1 5=
Hours of work (too long/antisocial) 1 5=
Poor career prospects 1 5=
Not enough training opportunities 1 5=
Young people aren’t interested in working hard 1 5=
Firm located in a difficult place to reach 1 5=
Job has a poor image 0 0
Not much job security 0 0
Poor/difficult working conditions 0 0
Not enough guidance/ appraisal in job 0 0
The work is boring 0 0
Too few fringe benefits 0 0
Not enough contact with people 0 0
N 9

The most important reason given is a shortage of qualified applicants, with three employers
blaming schools for this (see also Report 1, p. 18-20). Additional comments included
‘insufficient people with the right background’, ‘can’t find anyone with the necessary skills
and devotion to work, so we don’t have any employees’ and ‘very specialised field’.
Another important reason was ‘pay’s considered too low’. One employer commented: ‘Up till

12
now we have required very specialist electronic engineers /software engineers and being a
small firm cannot compete with levels of pay of large firms’.
This should be seen in the context of the two who stated ‘people don’t want to/can’t afford to
live here’. One employer emphasised that ‘people can’t afford to live in this area’ and another
that ‘the local cost of housing is very high’. Housing costs in the South of England are the
highest in the country and a good salary is essential for people moving to the area. There are
two sides to this problem, then: too few eligible applicants and too little to tempt the ones that
exist to enter the firm, especially in the case of the small firms which predominate in the
industry.
The overall survey differs from the British engineering sample in placing ‘pay’s considered
too low’ (53.1 per cent) as the main reason for difficulties in filling their hardest-to-fill posts,
but this was closely followed by ‘applicants don’t have the right qualifications’ (52.0 per
cent) and 26.0 per cent thought that ‘schools don’t teach young people the right skills’. On
the other hand, many more thought ‘young people aren’t interested in working hard’ (36.7 per
cent) and mentioned ‘the hours of work’ (30.1 per cent) (European Survey, Annex A, Table
A8).
Employers were asked, when recruitment for hard-to-fill posts did take place, what kind of
person they were likely to recruit (table 7).
Table 7 Employers’ views of likely recruits to hard-to-fill posts
Categories of recruit Number of Rank
responses
Males 8 1
Females 3 2
People under 25 7 1
People between 25 and 45 6 2
People over 45 1 3
People transferring from other firms in the same industry 7 1
People transferring from other posts within your firm 4 2
Recent graduates 3 3
People coming from other industries 2 4
Unemployed people 1 5=
Recent school leavers 1 5=
People returning to work after a career break 0 0
People who need training 6
People who are already suitably trained 6
N 9

An additional answer given was ‘we recruit people who’ve just been made redundant in the
same industry sector’ (see 3.2 above).
Men under forty-five were the most likely recruits, though three employers expected women
to fill some posts. The greatest source was ‘other firms in the same industry’, which includes
people who are ‘poached’ from competitors (see 3.2 above), followed by ‘people transferring
from other posts within [the same] firm’. ‘Recent graduates’ were mentioned by only three
employers, who appear to favour those with experience and training (again, this is borne out
by other research, summarised in the UK National Report 1). On the other hand, six expected
that people would need training, which would apply to ‘those transferring from other posts
within the same firm’, ‘unemployed people’ and ‘recent school leavers’.
By and large, people over forty-five or who had taken a career break were not expected to fill
vacant posts.
There are some interesting differences between the British subset and the general survey.

13
Whereas half of the most likely recruits in England were aged under 25, in Europe as a whole
the majority (76.9 per cent) were aged between 25 and 45. The main source of recruits was
similar, however, with the most common source people transferring from other firms in the
same industry (45.1 per cent) but unemployed people (39.6 per cent in the overall survey)
were very low in the British list. The number of recruits needing training, that is, about half, is
the same in both subset and overall survey (European Survey, Annex A, Table A9).

3.4 Employers’ views on government action to help overcome skills shortages


Employers with recruitment problems were then asked to comment on the helpfulness, on a
scale from one to five, of suggestions concerning what they thought government could or
should do to help overcome these skills shortages. One without recruitment problems said that
he was also answering this question because it interested him. His responses have been
included.
Table 8 Employers’ suggestions for overcoming skills shortages
Average Rank
Suggestions score
Improve opportunities for young people to experience the 4.3 1
world of work before they look for their first job
Reform the school curriculum 4.1 2
Improve careers guidance in schools 3.8 3
Reduce the social costs employers have to bear 3.7 4
Give employers more tax breaks 3.3 5=
Discourage early retirement among older people 3.3 5=
Invest more in vocational education 3.2 7
Provide more crèches so that women with children find it 3.0 8
easier to work
Require all employers to train their workforce 2.7 9
Reduce the benefits to unemployed people 2.5 10
Require all unemployed people to take any available job 1.8 11
Improve the performance of employment agencies and job 1.6 12
centres
Allow more immigrants into the country 1.4 13
Shorten the working week 1.3 14
N 10

Employers emphasised very strongly that the state should improve the supply of labour to the
industry, ranking highly ‘improve opportunities for young people to experience the world of
work before they look for their first job’, ‘reform the school curriculum’ and ‘improve careers
guidance in schools’. These suggest that the industry suffers from an image problem as well
as from a shortage of available qualified labour.
Lowering employers’ costs through ‘reducing the social costs employers have to bear’,
‘giving employers more tax breaks’ and the state ‘investing more in vocational education’ are,
predictably, favoured options too. The options involving higher costs to the firm, namely,
‘requiring all employers to train their workforce’ and ‘shorten the working week’ are, equally
predictably, unpopular.
Favoured suggestions to increase the quantity of labour include ‘discourage early retirement
among older people’ and ‘provide more crèches so that women with children find it easier to
work’. The latter may appear to be a costly option but such facilities decrease labour turnover;
it is, nevertheless, unexpected that such a male-dominated industry should be thought to
benefit from this.

14
In an industry requiring high qualifications, it is not surprising to find that employers did not
favour ‘reducing the benefits to unemployed people’, ‘requiring all unemployed people to
take any available job’ or ‘improving the performance of employment agencies and job
centres’, since these measures would have little impact on engineering firms. ‘Allowing more
immigrants into the country’ is also unpopular, for reasons probably unconnected with labour
shortages.
In the overall survey, employers gave similar responses. Thus, the most popular options were
‘to improve the opportunities for young people to experience the world of work before they
look for their first job’ (4.0), followed by ‘improve careers guidance in schools’ (3.9). They
also placed ‘reduce the social costs employers have to bear’ (3.8) slightly above ‘invest more
in vocational education’ (3.7), but this was rated a little higher than ‘give employers more tax
breaks’ (3.5). The suggestion that unemployed people should be required to take any available
job scored 2.2, although 3 per cent thought their benefits should be reduced. Allowing in
more immigrants and discouraging early retirement among older people, however, were
almost equally unpopular (1.9), exceeded only by ‘shorten the working week’ (1.6) (see
European Survey, Annex A, Table A10). The main differences are the British emphasis on
school reform and a more positive view of discouraging early retirement.

4. SKILLS GAPS

4.1 Identification of skill gaps and the relevance of qualifications

4.1.1 Skills
Employers were not asked directly about skills gaps, but they were asked how important, on a
scale of one to five, various skills were for workers in their firm in general. Workers were
asked the same question, as applied to their particular job, and were also asked to rate their
own skills. This gives some idea of latent skills gaps (see UK Report 1, p. 7). The results have
been combined in table 9.
Table 9 Employers and workers’ opinions of the importance of skills needed in their
firm/job
Employers’ Workers’ Workers’ self-
opinion opinion assessment
Skills
Score Rank Score Rank Score Rank
Having a flexible attitude 4.8 1 4.4 5= 4.3 4=
Being accurate 4.6 2 4.7 1 4.3 4=
Having specific knowledge 4.4 3 4.5 3= 4.5 1
Working in a team 4.3 4= 4.1 7= 3.9 8=
Using a computer 4.3 4= 4.6 2 4.4 2=
Being well organised/systematic 4.3 4= 4.5 3= 4.0 7
Being logical 4.2 7 4.4 5= 4.3 4=
Dealing with customers/public 3.9 8 3.3 12 3.4 13=
Being good with numbers 3.6 9 4.1 7= 4.4 2=
Being imaginative 3.3 10= 3.6 9 3.9 8=
Being mechanically minded 3.3 10= 3.4 11 3.7 11
Managing people 3.1 12= 3.2 13 3.2 16
Writing correct grammar 3.1 12= 3.5 10 3.9 8=
Having nimble fingers 3.0 14= 2.6 14 3.5 12
Being caring 3.0 14= 2.2 15= 3.4 13=
Having physical fitness 2.8 16 2.2 15= 3.3 15

15
Speaking foreign languages 1.7 17 1.5 17 1.8 17
N 24 75 75

It should be borne in mind that the employers’ and workers’ views are not strictly
comparable, as employers were asked about their workers’ skills in general whereas workers
were assessing the skills needed in their particular jobs.
Nevertheless, the rankings of employers and workers concerning skills needed are broadly
similar at the top and the bottom of the rankings (see also Report 1, p. 16).
All placed a high value on ‘having a flexible attitude’, ‘being accurate’, ‘having specific
knowledge’, ‘working in a team’, ‘using a computer’, ‘being well-organised/systematic’ and
‘being logical’, although the rankings differ slightly, notably with employers placing
flexibility of attitude and workers ranking it fifth. These attributes are to be expected in an
industry requiring a high degree of intellectual capital and accuracy. These findings are very
similar to those of the overall survey, except that computer use was much more important in
the British engineering sample (see European Report, Annex A, table A1).
Team-working and dealing with the public were slightly less valued by workers than by
employers and ‘being good with numbers’, ‘being imaginative’ and ‘writing correct grammar’
were valued more. Employers valued ‘having nimble fingers’, ‘being caring’ and ‘having
physical fitness’ more than workers did, but these are low down in both rankings. Neither
group thought ‘speaking foreign languages’ was important.
The figures in bold refer to attributes where there is a significant statistical difference between
workers’ opinion of the skills needed for their jobs and their self-assessment. The workers
overall felt that they were fitter and more caring , had nimbler fingers and were better at
foreign languages than required by the job. Since the importance attached to these is so low,
the statistical significance there is of no interest here.
Although not statistically significant, workers were relatively modest about their abilities
concerning being accurate and well-organised, but confident in their job-specific knowledge
and ability with numbers, both of which they valued highly.
Workers in the overall survey felt they were good at team-working and good with customers,
but needed to be better-organised, more accurate, logical, knowledgeable, flexible and caring
(European Survey, Annex B, Tables B3 and B4).

4.1.2 Qualifications
The group was highly qualified. Only 4 per cent had completed their education at lower
secondary school and 8 per cent at upper secondary school. Almost half (42.7 per cent) had
attended further education, 40 per cent were graduates, and 5.3 per cent had higher degrees.
Only 13.3 per cent said they had no vocational qualifications and were not working towards
any; but of these, two were graduate professionals and one an IT specialist with a higher
degree. Four were ‘other technical’ staff, of whom one had a degree and two had attended
further education. One was a skilled craftsman with a degree. In the United Kingdom, the
term ‘vocational qualification’ is not perhaps widely understood and the border between
vocational and academic qualifications is unclear.
It is probable that, out of this group, the only ones without any qualifications were one ‘other
technical’ and one manager who had completed education at upper secondary school, and one
professional who had not been educated beyond lower secondary school. These were all aged
over forty-four (one of them over fifty-four), two had been in the industry for twenty-eight
and thirty years respectively and the other, although in the industry only nine years, had
perhaps been a manager in other sectors previously.
The rest either had vocational qualifications but were not currently working towards any (44
per cent), had vocational qualifications and were working towards others (33.3 per cent) or

16
had no qualifications but were working towards some (9.3 per cent).
The educational profile for the whole survey is quite different. Setting aside the issue of
further education (a concept which varies between countries), the workers in general included
only 22.8 per cent with first degrees and 1.1 per cent with higher degrees, while 18.3 per cent
had left education at lower secondary level. A full 37.1 per cent had no qualifications and
were not working towards any, and only 5.7 per cent had no qualifications and were working
towards some (see European Survey, Annex D, Table D2.) Of those who had or were working
towards relevant vocational qualifications, the average number of awards was 1.4 (compared
with only 0.8 in the whole survey, see European Survey, Annex B, Table B12, see also Table
B13). This further illustrates the high-skilled nature of electrical and electronic engineering.
Between them, the engineering sample held a large and varied number of qualifications.
Vocational qualifications in the United Kingdom are very varied and some higher education
degrees are both academic and vocational, such as engineering degrees. The following
qualifications were reported:
Engineering/science academic qualifications: Bachelor’s Degrees, including B.Eng, B.Sc.
Master’s Degrees, including M.Eng, M.Sc; Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Engineering vocational/professional subjects and qualifications: City and Guilds (various
levels); National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) level 3; NEBSS Certificate; NEBOSH
Diploma; Ordinary National Certificates (ONC) and Diplomas (OND); Higher National
Certificates (HNC) and Diplomas (HND); C.Engineering; MIEE, Chartered Engineer;
Techniques in Reliability Engineering; Mechanical Drawing
Non-engineering subjects and qualifications: Health and Safety at Work; First Aid at Work;
Contract and Commercial Law; Administration; D32/D33 NVQ Assessor; Banking; Legal
secretary; Degree in Marketing; Post-graduate Diploma in Marketing; Teaching
qualifications; MBA
Those with relevant qualifications were asked for their reasons for studying (table 10).
Table 10 Workers’ reasons for having or taking job-relevant qualifications
Reasons Score Ranking
To widen my career opportunities/choices 50.9 1
To get my first job in this type of work 32.1 2
To get a better job in this type of work 24.5 3=
My boss advised me to 24.5 3=
Because I thought it sounded interesting 22.6 5
My family/friends advised me to 3.8 6
Other people (e.g. teachers) advised me to 1.9 7
Unemployment office advised me to 0 0
Private employment agency advised me to 0 0
N

Instrumental reasons were the most common, principally to ‘widen my career


opportunities/choices’ and to ‘get my first job in this type of work’. A quarter had aimed for
promotion or better jobs; but a quarter had taken courses because ‘My boss advised me to’,
which suggests that some appraisal and/or mentoring had taken place, whether formally or
informally. The effect of other people, such as family, friends or teachers was negligible.
More important than these was ‘Because I thought it sounded interesting’.
Additional comments included personal motivation (‘To prove that I could’; ‘vocation’; ‘to
put old secretarial skills on to computer’; and ‘The Open University is my “hobby”’) and
external motivation. One said, ‘An engineer at a customer plant of my then employer
suggested it!’ Another explained, ‘I already had BTEC HNC, OND and City & Guilds but
outside the Royal Navy a degree had become the minimum requirement to obtain

17
employment in defence engineering industry.’ A third pointed out, ‘It was part of my
apprenticeship.’
The commonest reasons given by all the workers were broadly similar: ‘to widen my career
opportunities’ (51.1 per cent), ‘to get my first job in this type of work’ (38.5 per cent),
‘because I thought it sounded interesting’ (33.6 per cent) and ‘to get a better job in this type of
work’ (33.3 per cent); but only 14.8 per cent said their employer had advised them to take the
qualifications (European Survey, Annex B, Table B14).
Of the thirteen workers who had qualifications not relevant to their present job, six said that
they had done the qualification for interest and had never wanted to work in that area; five
that they would like in future to get work for which the qualification was relevant; and four
that they had been unable to obtain a job using that qualification.
Two workers added comments here. One said, ‘My company body shops to meet customer
requirements, hence it could be used to get my next job’. Presumably he was thinking of a
different job in the same company. The other said:
Seemed a nice idea, to add an extra ‘home-based’ possibility of employment.
Unfortunately the huge take-up of the scheme, as envisaged by the government,
doesn’t appear to have happened. The idea was that small firms would “buy in”
computer-based training for their employees (or the employees would initiate it
themselves). The cost would include an online service for tutor approval / assessment
/ help. Called LearnDirect but it appears to have been a failure! Still, I enjoyed the
training.

4.2 Strategies: training

4.2.1 Trainees and apprentices


Of the twenty-four firms represented in the employers’ survey, only seven had any formal
trainees or apprentices. The size of these firms ranged from 17 to 20,000, and four had fewer
than fifty employees. The average number of apprentices in the six firms to give full
responses was 18.5, with one very large firm having a hundred apprentices or trainees. The
others had between one and five. One employer stated: ‘We don’t have any but we would like
them if financial help in training them was available. We have investigated this.’ Clearly it is
difficult but not impossible for small firms to take on apprentices or trainees.
This contrasts with the overall survey, where just under half (46.3 per cent) of firms had
apprentices/trainees and the average number of these in the firms which had them was 7.4.
These were primarily in skilled crafts, customer care, sales and secretarial/clerical (European
Survey, Annex A, Tables A11-13, and see Tables A14-17 on other aspects of
apprenticeships).
Four of the seven firms had professional level trainees, two had ‘other technical’ and ‘skilled
craft’ apprentices, and one had an apprentice in customer service.
Six of the seven employers said their apprentices or trainees were studying part-time, outside
work premises but during working hours and five reported learning on the job. In addition
four allotted study time on the premises during working hours and three provided courses on
work premises during working hours. One employer said that their trainee followed a course
outside working hours and one that he was studying at a distance.
Over two-thirds of the apprentices or trainees were male and generally under twenty-five
years of age, although two employers reported apprentices aged twenty-five to forty-five and
one people over forty-five. Five of the employers said apprentices included recent school
leavers, three recent graduates, two people transferring from other posts within the firm and
one a person returning to work after a career break.
One employer stated that the two apprentices they had were learning human resource

18
management and mechanical engineering.

4.2.2 Continuing vocational training


Both employers and workers were asked about training in the previous twelve months.
Training was described as courses on the firm’s premises; courses outside the workplace;
conferences, seminars, workshops or similar; on the job training, someone showing someone
else how to do something; time at work for personal study; distance learning; rotation of posts
at work (for training purposes); and scheduled discussion groups with colleagues to talk about
ways of doing the job better. Respondents were also invited to add any other types of training
engaged in.
Of the twenty-four firms, 70.8 per cent reported that they had provided training in the last
twelve months, but 29.2 per cent had not. One of these, the owner of a small firm,
commented, ‘Usually we are too busy to spend much time on courses’ (see also Report 1, p.
17, 18).
Of the fourteen firms reporting on the percentage of paid time spent on training, the mean
percentage was 2.4 and the average percentage of workers estimated to have received it was
28.4. In the workers’ sample, however, just over half (50.7 per cent) said that they had
received it (similar to the whole survey, see European Survey, Annex B, Table B15). This
may, however, be due to the majority of the sample being qualified workers, who are more
likely than those with low or no qualifications to receive further training (see Report 1, p. 17).
Two explained why they were answering ‘no’ to the question. One said, ‘There is vocational
training available and I have received some directly applicable to my job but not in the last
year’ and the other that he preferred to engage in education rather than in training. Of the
workers who had received training, the average estimate of time spent in training was 71.6
hours (with a range of eight to three hundred hours), which they estimated at 4.0 per cent of
paid time. The figure for the whole survey, however, was lower, at 63.0 hours or 1.8 per cent
of paid time (see European Survey, Annex B, Table B17).

4.2.3 Training plans


Employers were asked if their firm had a training plan and if so how long the plan had been in
existence and what percentage of turnover was allocated to training. Just under half (47.6 per
cent of twenty-one responses) said they had such a plan and of the eight able to make an
estimate, the mean value was 3.76 per cent of turnover.
The average length of such plans that existed was eleven years (with a range of three to
twenty years). Most of the firms with training plans were very large but four were SMEs and
of these one had had such a plan for sixteen years.
In the overall survey, on the other hand, only 38.9 per cent of firms had a training plan, with
an estimated value of 2.15 per cent of turnover, and the plans had been in existence for an
average of 6.7 years (see European Survey, Annex A, Tables A30, A31, A32). Again, the
difference reflects the fact that engineering is a high-skilled sector dealing with rapid
technological change which requires frequent updating of knowledge and skills.

4.2.4 Certification of existing competences


In England this would most commonly take the form of National Vocational Qualifications,
which range from level 1 (basic) to 5 (higher degree equivalent). Only two firms, an SME and
a large multi-national, said they certified existing competences, compared with 25.6 per cent
in the overall survey (European Survey, Annex A, Table A33).

4.3 Analysis of training

4.3.1 Types of training


Both employers and workers were asked about types of job-related training (excluding any for

19
formal apprentices or trainees) in the past year: employers what they had provided in
percentage terms. Workers were asked what they had received (percentages total more than
100 because of workers receiving more than one kind of training (table 11).

20
Table 11 Types of training in the last twelve months reported by employers and workers
Types of training Employers Rank Workers Rank
On-the-job training, someone showing someone 54.1 1 43.2 2=
else how to do something
Course on the firm’s premises 15.9 2 62.2 1
Course outside the workplace 10.9 3 37.8 3
Conferences, seminars, workshops or similar 8.2 4 27.0 5=
Scheduled discussion groups with colleagues to 4.9 5 29.7 4
talk about ways of doing the job better
Personal study, either at work or elsewhere N/a - 43.2 2=
Rotation of posts at work (for training purposes) 3.8 6 0.0 -
Distance learning 1.4 7 27.0 5=
Time at work for personal study 0.8 8 N/a -
Total percentage (employers only) 102.0
N 17 37

There is some agreement in terms of ranking between the two groups, with courses on the
firm’s premises and on-the-job training and courses outside the workplace in the top three.
The differences in amount arise because workers took several types of training within the
same year; but the greater percentage of workers taking ‘courses outside the workplace’ than
the average percentage reported by employers reflects the higher-than-average educational
and occupational level of the workers in the sample, as does the high number involved in
‘personal study’ (but see a similar finding by NALS, Report 1, p. 16), attending ‘conferences,
seminars, workshops and similar’ and attending ‘scheduled discussion groups with colleagues
to talk about ways of doing the job better’. The quarter involved in distance learning comes
from the Open University students and graduates in the sample. Even so, well over half the
workers reported taking ‘courses on the firm’s premises’ and nearly half receiving some ‘on-
the-job training’.
The overall survey shows that two-thirds of employers said their firms trained their workers
(compared with three-quarters in a 2000 survey, see Report 1, p. 17) and in these firms 3.0 per
cent of paid time was spent in training, 36.0 per cent of training was carried out in courses on
the firm’s premises, 21.9 per cent courses outside the workplace and only 18.1 per cent was
on-the-job training (European Survey, Annex A, Tables A18-20, 23). There was, therefore,
more emphasis on training in the British firms, and much more on-the-job training than in
Europe as a whole. This apparent difference, however, may arise from differing perceptions
of what constitutes ‘training’. Furthermore, 29.7 per cent of the workers said they had
received on-the-job training, although at the same time 49.0 per cent had taken in-house and
36.2 per cent external courses (European Survey, Annex B, Table B16; see also Report 1, p.
17).
One question was not the same for both employers and workers. ‘Time at work for personal
study’ came bottom of the rankings and with a very small score for employers, but 43.2 per
cent of workers, who were asked about personal study ‘either at work or elsewhere’, said they
did this, and it is probable that they meant that they did some of their studying at home or in a
library. This group would also include those studying by distance learning.

4.3.2 Costs of training


Both employers and workers were asked who had born the cost of training (table 12).

21
Table 12 Employers’ and workers’ reports on funding of training
Course fees paid by firm Employers Workers
Yes, all of them 87.5 68.4
Yes, some of them 6.3 13.2
No, none of them 0.0 0.0
There were no fees (training provided from staffing 6.3 18.4
budget)
N 16 38

Nearly all of the employers said that the firm paid all the course fees for their workers’
vocational training. This is somewhat higher than in the overall survey, where 75.0 per cent of
employers (but only 59.6 per cent of workers) gave a positive response (see European Survey,
Annex A, Table A21 and Annex B, Table B18). Workers, however, claimed that some of
their training was funded from the staffing budget. It is possible that employers misinterpreted
the question.
Both employers and workers were asked about payment for the time employees spent on
vocational training (table 13).
Table 13 Employers’ and workers’ reports on funding of time spent training
Firm paid for time spent on vocational training Employers Workers
Yes, all of it 94.1 70.3
Yes, some of it 5.9 24.3
No, none of it .0 5.4
N 17 37

The disparity here probably arises from the worker sample which, as noted, is skewed
towards higher occupational and educational levels and includes a number involved in
personal and distance learning. The overall survey found that only 74.8 per cent of employers
paid workers while they were studying, compared with 57.1 per cent of the workers
(European Survey, Annex A, Table A22, see also Annex B, Table B19).
Employers were asked if their firm supported workers who chose to study by themselves
(table 14).
Table 14 Employers’ support for workers choosing to study by themselves
Support provided % agreeing with statement
No, not at all 20.0
Yes, by providing unpaid study leave 12.5
Yes, by providing paid study time 37.5
Yes, by paying course fees 87.5
N (firms) 21

Two employers added comments, one that ‘there is support for self-study but employees have
to pay back the fees if they leave the firm within two years of completing the training’ and the
other that ‘support is given if the study is appropriate’.
A majority of employers said they paid course fees for workers choosing to study by
themselves, but under a half provided paid study time and a minority provided unpaid study
leave or gave no support at all. In the overall survey, on the other hand, two-fifths (40.1 per
cent) provided no support for private study, although a further 35.9 per cent paid course fees
(European Survey, Annex A, Table A34). There appears to be a greater tradition of support
for private study in the British engineering sector than in the whole survey.

22
4.3.3 Selection of employees for training
Employers were asked the various bases on which employees were selected for training and
workers were asked the bases on which they themselves had been selected for training (table
15).
Table 15 Employers’ and workers’ reports on bases of selection for training
Bases of selection for training Employers Rank Workers Rank
No selection, everyone in particular jobs has to do it 52.9 2 23.7 3=
No selection, anyone who is interested/eligible can 23.5 4= 23.7 3=
do it
People who need specific skills are selected 76.5 1 68.4 1
People with potential for promotion are selected 35.3 3 0.0 -
People apply to attend, but only some are selected 23.5 4= 0.0 -
Individual study (i.e. no selection) 0.0 - 36.8 2
N 17 38

Again the disparity reflects the nature of the highly qualified worker sample. Much of the
compulsory training probably concerns health and safety, which is the single most important
subject of training in the United Kingdom but is imposed more generally on lower-level
workers. The choice of individual study also reflects the nature of the worker sample.
Nevertheless, both employers and workers ranked ‘People who need specific skills’ at the top.
One interesting example of meeting training needs was reported by a worker:
Unfortunately, working in the defence industry, vocational training is hard to come
by but VT on working knowledge is provided when it benefits the company. These
tend to be no longer than a week and do not actually carry any recognised
qualifications, e.g. City & Guilds or Royal Society of Arts. But on the other hand I
think I may be dyslexic and my firm have agreed to pay for me to be analysed and
have a short training programme if that will benefit me.
The overall survey shows rather less emphasis on the selection of people needing specific
skills (64.25 per cent), and fewer (45.1 per cent) gave training to all in particular jobs, without
selection (European Survey, Annex A, Table A24). Of the workers who had received training,
36.5 per cent reported that all had to do it, with only 33.5 per cent selected because they
needed specific skills, 31.1 per cent because they chose to and 14.5 per cent by individual
study with no selection (European Survey, Annex B, Table B20). It is not surprising,
however, that in the engineering sector much training was focused on specific skills.

4.3.4 Evaluation of training carried out in the past year


Employers and workers were again asked matched questions, rating on a scale of 1 to 5 (from
least to most useful) the vocational training carried out in the past year on the issues of
‘helping them to do their present jobs better’ and ‘helping them with career progression’
(table 16). (See the caveat by Tamkin and Hillage in Report 1, p 16.)
Table 16 Employers’ and workers’ evaluation of usefulness of training carried out in the
last twelve months
Usefulness of vocational training Employers Workers
For helping them to do their present jobs better 4.4 3.7
For helping them with career progression 3.2 3.0
N

Employers were highly satisfied with the effect of the training in helping their workers’ job
performance, though workers were less convinced. Neither group was definite that it helped

23
with career progression. In the overall survey, however, workers were more positive, rating
‘for doing your present job better’ 4.2 and assisting career progression 3.3 (see European
Survey, Annex B, Table B21).
Employers’ third option was ‘helping the firm to adapt to future demands’, which scored 3.5.
Workers’ third option was ‘for getting a different type of job’, scoring a rather low 2.5
(similar to the 2.6 in the overall workers’ survey), which is not surprising since training is
generally geared to the kind of job currently undertaken and focuses on specific rather than
transferable skills.
The overall survey shows that employers were also very satisfied that the vocational training
they had provided had improved workers’ performance (4.4) but more likely to say that it
helped the firm (3.9) and that it had helped workers’ career progression (3.4) (European
Survey, Annex A, Table A25).
Both groups were asked about training for the specific skills which workers had been asked to
assess in the context of their jobs and their own abilities. Employers were asked which skills
were focused on, using a scale of 1 (great emphasis) to 5 (not covered) and workers were
asked which skills training they personally thought they needed in order to do their jobs
better. Chart ?? shows the skills/training need ranked from 1st to 10th.
Chart ?? Employers’ report on focus of skills training and workers’ assessments of
training need

It is evident that employers and workers are in broad agreement that specific knowledge is the
most important training need. But there are disparities elsewhere. Workers were much more
likely than employers to feel that they needed training in being well-organised and more
likely to stress using a computer, team-working and managing people. Employers were more
likely than workers to feel that training was needed in having a flexible attitude and dealing
with customers.

Skills Employers’ emphasis Workers’ assessment


of training needed
Score Rank % Rank

24
Having specific knowledge 4.5 1 79.7 1
Dealing with customers/public 3.5 2 53.6 5
Managing people 2.7 3 68.1 2
Having a flexible attitude 2.4 4 47.8 7
Working in a team 2.3 5= 58.0 3
Being logical 2.3 5= 44.9 8
Using a computer 2.3 5= 56.5 4
Being accurate 2.2 8 40.6 9
Being imaginative 1.9 9 37.7 10=
Being well organised/systematic 1.8 10= 50.7 6
Being mechanically minded 1.8 10= 36.2 12
Being good with numbers 1.7 12 37.7 10=
Being caring 1.6 13 17.4 15
Writing correct grammar 1.4 14 31.9 13=
Having physical fitness 1.3 15= 15.9 16
Speaking foreign languages 1.3 15= 31.9 13=
Having nimble fingers 1.2 17 13.0 17
N 23 69

One worker asked sceptically of the skills listed in the survey, ‘Can these abilities be trained?’
but most appeared to think at least some of them could be.
Note that when asked which skills were most important in their firm, employers had
prioritised ‘having a flexible attitude’, ‘being accurate’ and ‘having specific knowledge’,
followed by ‘working in a team’, ‘using a computer’ and ‘being well organised’ (see table 9).
‘Dealing with customers/the public’ ranked eighth, and yet training was focused on this
second only to ‘having specific knowledge’ (as in the European Survey, Annex A, Table A26;
and see Report 1, p. 17). This presumably means that these two aspects of the job were the
site of the most important skill gaps.
Workers were asked with which skills they felt training could most help them to do their jobs
better. Some gave negative responses, not because they necessarily felt certain skills were
unimportant but because they felt they did not need training in them, which explains some of
the disparity between employers’ focus and workers’ self-assessment of training needs.
Both groups were agreed on the need for training in ‘specific knowledge’, which is to be
expected in an industry with a high of technological change and innovation and on the low
priority for training in ‘having nimble fingers’, ‘having physical fitness’, ‘writing correct
grammar’, ‘being caring’, ‘being good with numbers’, ‘being mechanically minded’ and
‘being imaginative’.
Certain categories, however, differ strikingly between the two groups. Although ‘speaking
foreign languages’ is rated low by both groups, almost a third of workers felt this would help
them. Certainly in the past engineers were required to learn German since this was the
language in which many technical works were written.
Furthermore, a majority of the workers felt they needed training in ‘managing people’,
‘working in a team’, ‘using a computer’ and ‘being well-organised/systematic’, none of which
were scored highly by the employers.
Workers in the overall survey also felt that they needed training in specific knowledge (80.0
per cent), managing people (61.1 per cent) and team-working (62.6 per cent); but they were
more likely to say they needed training in being well-organised (64.1 per cent), dealing with
customers (63.7 per cent), using a computer (61.5 per cent) and being accurate (59.1 per
cent). Furthermore, far more thought they needed foreign languages (52.4 per cent) and
physical fitness (29.9 per cent); but a similar number were concerned about writing correct

25
grammar (31.6 per cent) (see European Survey, Annex B, Table B23).
Employers were then asked to evaluate the success of the training in those skills which they
had rated 3, 4 or 5 in terms of focus and workers were also asked to evaluate their skills
training (table 18).
Table 18 Employers’ and workers’ evaluation of success of training (N = the number
who had given or received training in this particular skill)
Skills in which training was given Employers Workers
Mean N Mean N
Having specific knowledge 4.2 14 4.3 28
Working in a team 3.7 6 3.3 18
Managing people 3.7 6 3.5 11
Having a flexible attitude 3.4 7 3.2 17
Being accurate 3.6 7 3.8 22
Being well organised/systematic 3.4 8 3.5 23
Being logical 3.2 5 3.7 24
Using a computer 3.9 7 4.0 18
Being good with numbers 3.2 5 3.8 18
Being mechanically minded 2.6 5 3.0 6
Having physical fitness 3.0 1 1.5 2
Dealing with customers/the public 3.9 9 3.7 17
Having nimble fingers 4.0 1 1.3 3
Being imaginative 3.0 5 3.3 14
Being caring 2.7 3 3.5 4
Writing correct grammar 3.0 2 3.1 7

It is notable that the overall score employers gave to the overall effect of training on job
performance (4.4 - see table 16) is almost matched by their score for the training success in
‘having specific knowledge’ (4.2), which was the skill most emphasised for training purposes.
Employers were also quite satisfied with the training in ‘dealing with customers/the public’
(the second most emphasised skill where training was needed) and, curiously, with ‘having
nimble fingers’. It should be noted that some aspects of work might be improved as an
unintended by-product of training in other areas.
Workers did not value the quality of training in the same way as did the employers, except for
training in specific knowledge, but the general lack of overlap between the two sets may
explain this. There are too few responses to compare workers and employers’ views in firms
which supplied both.
No training in speaking foreign languages was reported.
In the overall survey, employers’ ratings were similar in placing specific knowledge as a most
successful area for skills training but customer care was rated as highly (4.2). These were
followed by organisational skills and accuracy (both 3.9) (European Survey, Annex A, Table
A27). The workers too rated training in specific knowledge most highly (4.3), followed by
training in being organised and accurate, and dealing with the public (3.9) (see European
Survey, Annex B, Table B22).

4.4 Skills acquisition and mobility


An important issue for employers is that, having been trained, their employees do not take
their new or upgraded skills to another firm, possibly in the same area and a competitor. Fear
of ‘poaching’ is well-justified.

26
Hence, employers were asked if, in general, their trainees and apprentices wanted to stay with
their firm when they had finished their training. Out of seven responses, three said that most
would like to stay with the firm and four that ‘some want to stay with us and others want to
leave’. All the current trainees were very likely to be asked to stay on after completing their
apprenticeships, which is to be expected given the investment in their training; but whether or
not they will, or for how long, is problematic in an industry with an apparent habit of
poaching trained staff from other firms.
Concerning workers who had recently received continuing vocational training, employers
were asked if this made workers any more or less likely than other workers to leave the firm.
Of the seventeen employers responding, one (5.9 per cent) said they were slightly more likely
to leave, four (23.5 per cent) said they were slightly more likely to stay with the firm, one that
they were much more likely to stay (5.9 per cent) and eleven (64.7 per cent) that it made no
difference. In other words, most employers did not fear that training would harm the firm
through losing it employees but they did not believe that offering training would have much
effect in retaining them (cf Report 1, p. 16).
In the overall survey, however, 10.8 per cent of employers felt that trained employees were
much more or slightly more likely to leave, 38.0 per cent believed it would make no
difference and 51.7 per cent thought they would be slightly or much more likely to stay with
the firm (European Survey, Annex A, Table A28).
Asked the reason for their responses, of the nine employers who answered this question, five
said that training made workers feel more loyal to the firm, five that their career prospects in
the firm improved and four that they got a pay increase after completing a course.
On the other hand, two said that they had more marketable skills (which they could
presumably take to other firms, one that ‘they think they deserve a pay increase (which they
don’t get)’ and one that ‘other firms in our industry poach them.’ The results for the European
Survey are similar, though many fewer (9.2 per cent) said workers got a pay rise after
completing a course and more (12.8 per cent) said other firms poached trained workers (see
European Survey, Annex A, Table A29).
In a question unrelated to work-provided training, workers were asked if they ever thought of
working in a different type of job altogether (not necessarily in a different firm, though).
Their answers have been collated with their access to training in the past year (table 19).
Table 19 Workers’ feelings about changing job compared with receipt of training in the
last twelve months
All workers Workers trained in Workers not
Attitude to job change (%) the last year (%) trained in the last
year (%)
No, never 12.0 13.2 10.8
Sometimes, but not seriously 56.0 57.9 54.1
Yes, I’d like to change 22.7 23.7 21.6
Yes, I’m determined to change 9.3 5.3 13.5
N 75 38 37

Taking ‘never’ and ‘not seriously’ together, 68 per cent of all workers were content to stay in
their jobs, but the figure rises to 71.1 per cent for those who had received training in the last
year and falls to 64.9 per cent for those who had not.
There was little difference in terms of training between those who said they would like to
change jobs, but of those who were determined to change, more than twice as many who had
not been trained as had been were determined to change jobs.
There appears to be some effect of training on workers’ feelings about changing job; but in
any case, the word ‘job’ is ambiguous, as it can be interpreted as ‘post’ or ‘employment in a

27
particular firm’.
Workers who did not say they were determined to move were also asked if they were
interested in being promoted at work. These results have also been collated with receipt of
training within the last year (table 20).
Table 20 Workers’ attitude to promotion, compared with receipt of training in the last
twelve months
All Workers trained Workers not
Attitude to promotion workers in the last year trained in the
(%) (%) last year (%)
Yes, I’d like to move on as soon as possible 16.2 18.4 10.8
Yes, at some time in the future 11.8 13.2 8.1
It depends on what is on offer 27.9 23.7 27.0
No, I’m happy as I am 22.1 15.8 24.3
There’s no chance of promotion here 22.1 23.7 16.2
N 68 36 32

Taking together those who would like promotion as soon as possible and those who would
like it at some time in the future, 31.6 per cent who had received recent training expressed
interest in promotion, compared with only 18.9 per cent of those who had not received
training. There is little difference between the groups in terms of the cautious ‘it depends on
what is on offer.’ On the other hand, workers who had not received training were far more
likely to say they were happy as they were (24.3 per cent) than those who had (15.8 per cent);
and workers who had been trained recently were more likely (23.7 per cent) than those who
had not (16.2 per cent) to say ‘there’s no chance of promotion here’.
It should be noted that, of those who said there was no chance of them being promoted, three
of the nine who had recently received training but only one of the six who had not received it
intended to change jobs and none were determined to change.
One commented, ‘My company dangle the carrot of training for promotion but do not deliver.
I have had the same training shortfall on my last four annual appraisals. They are trying to set
up a new training programme, of which all employees will have to attend the basic level and
attend further training when considered for promotion.’
There is no conclusive evidence here to show an effect of training in general on future
decisions or aspirations in terms of either changing job or seeking promotion; but it appears
than providing training might retain some workers and inspire some to think of promotion,
especially when training actually does lead to promotion.
For workers in the general survey with regard to leaving the job or seeking promotion, see the
European Survey, Annex B, Tables B10-11.

4.5 External support for training


Employers were asked a number of questions in this area concerning compulsory levies,
employers’ associations and informal co-operation (Table 21).
Table 21 Employers’ knowledge of external support for training
External support for training Exists Planned No plans Don’t
know
Compulsory levy on all employers 0.0 0.0 78.9 21.1
Employers’ association runs courses 5.3 10.5 52.6 31.6
Informal cooperation 5.6 5.6 72.2 16.7
N=19

28
Asked to give their opinions of these options, the employers responding (N=19) thought a
compulsory levy on all employers was a bad idea (score 1.4 out of 5); they were little more
enthusiastic about the ideas of employers’ associations running courses and informal co-
operation. One queried: ‘In a profit organisation, who pays?’ which raises the difficult
question not only of finance but of helping competitors to train their staff. This might,
however, prevent one’s competitors from poaching one’s own staff.
In the overall survey, on the other hand, 25.5 per cent of employers said firms were subject to
a compulsory levy and plans for one were reported by a further five per cent. A similar
number (34.4 per cent) said that employers’ associations ran courses and 29.8 per cent
reported informal co-operation. Their opinions of these collective arrangements were similar,
though slightly less hostile, to those in the British engineering sample (European Survey,
Annex A, Tables A35-36).

4.6 Evaluation and recommendations


Finally, both employers and workers were asked to show the extent to which they agreed or
disagreed with statements concerning continuing vocational training in general, followed by
an open-ended question in which they could comment about CVT in their industry or firm in
particular.

4.6.1 Evaluation of CVT


The scores and rankings for both employers and workers are in table 22. The higher the score,
the higher the general agreement with the statement.

29
Table 22 Employers’ and workers’ attitudes towards continuous vocational training
(CVT)
Employers Workers
Attitudes to CVT Score Rank Score Rank
This country needs a better trained workforce 4.5 1= 4.2 1=
Everyone needs training and retraining throughout 4.5 1= 4.2 1=
their lifetime
You learn a lot of useful things on CVT courses 4.2 3 3.6 4
Workers should be prepared to use some of their free 4.0 4 3.5 6=
time for training
Training should be provided in paid time 3.8 5 4.1 3
It should be up to individuals to decide if they want 3.5 6 3.6 4=
training
Employers should be made to train their workers 3.4 7 3.5 6=
I wish we had more CVT in this firm 3.0 8 3.3 9
It’s difficult to find out what CVT courses are 2.7 9 3.0 10=
available
I’d rather work than go on a course 2.4 10= 2.5 12
The unions should put pressure on employers to 2.4 10= 3.4 8
provide CVT
Most CVT is a waste of time 2.3 12 2.0 14
The unions should provide more CVT 2.1 13 3.0 10=
CVT is the job of the government 1.7 14= 2.3 13
People who already have a job don’t need CVT 1.7 14= 1.8 15
N 23 74

Although employers gave higher scores than workers, both were in accord that ‘this country
needs a better trained workforce’ and ‘everyone needs training and retraining throughout their
lifetime’, each group giving these equal first ranking, and that ‘You learn a lot of useful
things on CVT courses’ (ranked third by employers and fourth by workers). The general
survey supported all of these ideas (European Survey, Annex A, Table A37, Annex B, Table
B24).
Both groups wished ‘we had more CVT in this firm’, but workers were more likely than
employers to agree with the statement ‘It’s difficult to find out what CVT courses are
available’. In both cases the rankings are quite low.
They gave similar scores and rankings to the apparently contradictory ideas that ‘It should be
up to individuals to decide if they want training’ and ‘Employers should be made to train their
workers’. Fifty-one of the workers gave similar scores to both these ideas. Perhaps if the
second question had been phrased ‘all their workers’ the answers would have been different.
Going on previous research2, however, it may be that workers wanted more choice over the
type of training they received rather than whether to receive training at all. One worker
commented, ‘With training there needs to be give and take from both employee and
employer. One needs to give to the other to make it work. Employer provides the right course
and employee must give of his time to achieve its outcome.’
The other apparently contradictory statements, ‘Training should be provided in paid time’ and

2
A survey in the West of Scotland of workers who had received vocational training, carried out by Dr
Pamela Clayton and directed by Professor Maria Slowey, Department of Adult and Continuing
Education, University of Glasgow, funded by the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council and
carried out in the mid-late 1990s.

30
‘Workers should be prepared to use some of their free time for training’ were given the same
or similar scores by fifty-eight of the seventy-four workers who completed this part of the
questionnaire. These may be suggesting that as long as some training is provided in work time
they think it right that workers add some of their free time. Overall, though, workers were
more positive about the first and less about the second of these two statements than
employers.
Employers were significantly more antipathetic than workers to the ideas that ‘The unions
should put pressure on employers to provide CVT’ and ‘The unions should provide more
CVT’, but these were not ranked highly by workers.
Neither group thought that ‘Most CVT is a waste of time’, ‘I’d rather work than go on a
course’, ‘CVT is the job of the government’ or that ‘people who already have a job don’t need
CVT’.
Workers (especially in the whole survey, see European Survey, Annex B, Table B24) were
more in favour than employers of trade union involvement, either in providing CVT or
putting pressure on firms to provide it, and much more in favour of individuals deciding for
themselves if they wanted training. Judging by the general enthusiasm for CVT, this might
well refer more to wishing to have more choice of training than any antipathy to it.

4.6.2 Additional comments concerning CVT in the firm


Employers
Three employers commented that their companies were too small for most of the questions to
be relevant, and indeed this may have deterred some from completing the survey at all.
On the other hand, another small firm reported: ‘We try to train our workforce so the
company can cope with the changing demands in our industry.’
Two comments on the specialist nature of the sector are very relevant. One employer, the
head of a small team in a very large firm, stated: ‘In my team, most vocational training is
carried out on-the-job due to the specialist nature of the role.’ Another, the owner of a very
small firm, said:
We require highly trained specialised engineers. The engineers learn new skills in
paid work time as is required to do the jobs we are contracted to do. All of us are
learning all of the time. We all learn new software packages (by ourselves or help
each other) as we need to. We would take on more young people school leavers and
give training on the job and at college if there was financial help from the
government. As it is we cannot afford to do this.
For one very large firm, training was of the utmost importance but cost, both in terms of
money and time, was still a consideration: ‘Vocational training is seen by us as a critical
enabler. For some types of training we are looking at the effectiveness of e-learning - to
provide greater flexibility and also cost reduction.’
Workers
Several of the workers made useful comments, which can be grouped into critical views of
the industry’s approach to training; critical views of the training available; and suggestions to
improve training.
One felt that some firms in the industry paid lip-service to the idea of training and claimed to
carry it out but not as much or as effectively as they should:
I’ve noticed a number of companies have now been accepted as “Investors in
People”. I just wonder how many of these companies have a clear training policy or
strategy, and even more important allocate a budget for it. I realise training is just part
of the “Investors in People” philosophy but training is a clear measurable activity
which should carry a heavy weighting when assessing companies for this status.

31
Three expressed critical views of engineering education/CVT in general. One said that it
lacked credibility because there were so many providers using different modes of delivery.
One, an engineering lecturer in further education, felt that he was unable to do his job
properly because he spent too much time on administration to prepare his candidates properly
and yet there was a lot of pressure to pass candidates whether they were ready or not.
A third stated a view that many, no doubt, would agree with, comparing the former
apprenticeship system with the modern tendency to favour university education in
engineering:
I was an apprentice in engineering forty-five years ago and studied for HNC (Higher
National Certificate) one day a week during that time. The company I was with
maintained a complement of about 150 five-year apprentices. That put me in good
stead for a career in engineering. Since then I believe the rules have changed so that
employers have no encouragement to train apprentices. Certainly there have been
very few for many years now. These days the accent seems to be on university
degrees. The problem with this is that the newly qualified graduate comes with the
education but without the practical experience necessary to put it to good use. Hence
you have a succession of people all making the same mistakes instead of learning
from other people as they develop.
Finally, four workers made suggestions to improve CVT, all of which are interesting and
useful. One thought that it required a ‘strong single governing body’ to ensure its quality
across different providers. Another, who was about to be made redundant, pointed out,
‘Vocational training should also be available for older employees and not only for the
younger employees. You can teach an old dog new tricks!’ There is plenty of evidence that
older workers receive less training than younger ones, which is interesting in view of the
forthcoming legislation outlawing discrimination in the labour market on the grounds of age.
One wished vocational training, including highly specialised training, to earn qualifications
which were recognised in the same way as Ordinary and Advanced levels, City & Guilds, and
so on. He gave the example of repairing particular brands of specialist items. These processes
should be qualified to recognised standards which are globally recognised.
Finally, one recommended more resources being directed to the teaching of technical
drawing, maths, physics, engineering and the sciences, instead of allowing students to take
more modern subjects such as media studies. ‘Not so in France, Germany, Japan etc.. The
vast amount spent on education needs to be more cost-effectively focused where it is most
needed.’

5. CONCLUSIONS
Despite reports of skills shortages in engineering and particularly in the south of England,
only a minority of employers surveyed stated that they had recruitment problems; but of those
who did, most faced skills shortages in line with both national and European trends, that is, in
associate technical, professional and skilled craft workers.
The main factors attracting workers to the industry, as agreed by both employers and workers,
were interesting work, secure employment, good pay and good career prospects. Engineering
ranked first for workers, followed closely by information technology, and the occupation of
electrical engineer was out-ranked only by that of doctor. There was, therefore, strong
evidence of pride in the industry. Furthermore, although a few workers were dissatisfied with
their firms, the majority said their jobs were quite or very good, with one third in the latter
category.
Workers had, as expected, found their jobs to be interesting and reasonably well paid; but
both employers and workers intimated that they were not very secure and career prospects

32
were felt by workers in particular to be average rather than good. This insecurity is indicative
of the decline in British manufacturing, on which the electrical and electronic sector is partly
dependent, which has been evident for many years and which has seen many firms, including
large ones, contract or go out of business. On the other hand, the great majority of workers in
the survey were highly skilled and might easily find other employment, either in firms
advertising in the general press, through private employment agencies or through various
forms of word of mouth; furthermore, the failure of one business provided opportunities to
others to recruit skilled workers. This might explain the relative lack of recruitment problems.
The manufacturing sector, however, has shown a slight improvement and if this continues
skill shortages could become more of a problem than they appeared to be during the survey.
Where recruitment problems did exist, the commonest reason given was that applicants did
not have the right qualifications. As stated in the first United Kingdom Tremplin report, there
is a shortage of maths and science teachers and of students going on to study engineering both
in a practical and theoretical way. Hence, although the age range of expected recruits for
hard-to-fill posts was from under 25 to 45, the majority were expected to be transfers from
other firms or other parts of the same firm and only one third of employers thought they
would be recent graduates, who could well require further training before they were of real
value to the firm. Clearly, ‘poaching’ or taking redundant workers from other firms were the
most profitable options.
The provision of some initial training, therefore, would seem to be necessary for most firms
having to recruit; there was general agreement that a better-trained workforce was needed,
and that training and retraining were necessary throughout working life; but the options most
favoured by employers to overcome skill shortages and skills gaps involved no effort or
investment on their part. They felt that workers should be prepared to use some of their free
time for training; and although providing crèches and training were more popular than
encouraging immigration, these still ranked eighth and ninth. The idea of a compulsory
training levy on employers was unwelcome, although this does exist in some countries.
On the other hand, just over a third of the firms had apprentices or trainees, fewer than in the
overall survey but more than in the Scottish fish-processing survey; and a higher proportion
than in the overall survey had a training plan. By and large, though, both workers and
employers ranked opportunities for training rather low in their assessment of the jobs in the
sector. The majority of employers reported that they had provided continuing training, to an
average of just over a quarter of their workers, in the past twelve months. Over half the
workers surveyed, however, had received training in that period. This reflects their generally
high level of education and qualifications as well as their location in highly technical and
developing occupations.
One of the risks of providing training, of course, is that workers might be ‘poached’ by
another firm which thereby gains a competitive advantage by obtaining skilled workers
without having itself to invest in their training. Few of the employers in this survey, however,
expressed such fears. There is, on the other hand, some evidence that lack of training is more
likely to push workers to look elsewhere.
There is a difference between the skills that employers (and workers) thought were most
important in their firms and the kind of training provided. Employers generally ranked the
transferable skills of flexibility and accuracy above specific knowledge. The latter was ranked
first by workers and this was the skill in which they had most self-confidence; but in addition
to computer use and number work, they also felt they could be more flexible and accurate.
When asked about the training needs, however, both employers and workers placed specific
knowledge at the top and this indeed was the commonest object of training.
There appears to be a mismatch here, and it is possible that the need to keep up with changing
technology absorbs much of the budget that could be used for the transferable skills that both
employers and workers appear to value in addition to specific knowledge. It is fair say,
however, that many workers did report receiving training in transferable as well as specific

33
skills.
In conclusion, this survey suggests that training in the south of England electrical and
electronic engineering sector is provided by about three-quarters of firms and for no more
than half the workers. This is partly because the sector is characterised by a preponderance of
SMEs, which have fewer resources than large firms; but some of the SMEs had apprentices
and/or provided training for their workers, so this is not the whole answer. There is also a
question mark over the skills training actually delivered, which focuses on specific rather than
on transferable skills, despite the importance given to the latter by employers in particular.
IDEAS FOR NEW CONCLUSIONS
Problems Who can solve them
Guidance issues
The inadequacy of much schools career
ucation and guidance;
The difficulty for workers in accessing
cational/educational guidance;
The need for greater knowledge of and access
LMI.

Poor synergy between employers and


educational providers

Inadequate links between employers and


oviders of education and training;
Inadequate recognition in the educational
stem of the needs of employers.

Training issues

The reluctance or inability of the many small


mployers in particular to offer training;
The scarcity of employee development
hemes and their relative inaccessibility for
MEs;
The tendency for training opportunities to be
cused on those who already have qualifications
d the relative neglect of workers with no/low
ills or education.

Quality issues in education

The inadequacy of some teaching, particularly


basic skills, ESOL, mathematics and ICT;
Inadequate supply of appropriately trained
achers for literacy, ESOL and further
ucation.

Relatively low skill levels in the working


age population

A relatively high rate of deficiency in basic


ills among the population;
A generally low, though rising, level of
ucational attainment among the population;
Large numbers of people in disadvantaged

34
oups, such as lower social class, immigrants,
der workers and young people with particularly
w educational attainment or opportunity;
The difficulty for many low-skilled adults of
tending courses.

Lack of job security and career prospects


impede entry into the industry
Having trained workers ‘poached’ less likely
to lose workers than not training them
Necessity for ongoing training and re-
training: finding the resources (SMEs)
Focus on specific training

6. REFERENCES
EEF South (c. 2002), Time to Wake-up? A survey into the views, opinions and concerns of
manufacturers in London and South East England, Engineering Employers’ Federation
OECD (2001), Knowledge and Skills for Life: First Results from the OECD Programme for
International Student Assessment (PISA) 2000.
www.pisa.oecd.org/Docs/Download/PISA2001(english).pdf

Department for Education and Skills (2001b), Programme for International Student
Assessment (PISA) 2000 Survey: Key results. Sheffield: DfES

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