Brexit will bring sweeping changes to the way the UK not only interacts internationally, but also internally. With the country standing alone with regards to trade and exports, it is vital for us to be fully prepared. However, there is one area that I think needs much greater scrutiny—the UK technical skills gap.

Tellingly, there is a palpable shortage of technical training and skills right across the UK economy. With the country’s economic strength relying heavily on cutting-edge technology and knowledge, the UK security industry has particular reason to be anxious of movement restrictions on internationally sourced expertise and resources, as well as a potential ‘brain-drain’ of domestic talent.

There is a lack of quantity and quality of home-grown talent in the pipeline, and there is a greater availability of talent from overseas

Need for security education

There are two distinct aspects that need to be addressed when you look at the requirements of the UK economy with regards to technical expertise. First of all, there is the quantity and quality of home-grown talent in the pipeline, and secondly, there is the availability and desire of talent from overseas wanting to work in the UK.

In my own experience, it can be quite a challenge finding the best technical expertise (in the numbers needed) from the UK alone. Currently, alongside our British employees, our business employs a sizable amount of international security talent, ensuring we can fill key roles with exactly the right people.

As well as sourcing expertise from abroad, I passionately believe we need to properly support and educate the next generation of UK security professionals too, ensuring we can also find the right talent closer to home in the future.

T-Levels provide valuable business experience which can be lacking in traditional academic courses

Technology-level training for modern needs

It is frustrating to see the current skills gap—particularly as I felt the UK Government began moving in the right direction when it reintroduced the excellent national apprenticeships scheme a few years ago. There is no doubt we will always need excellent academic qualifications and people trained in research and development, but equally a stint in further education is certainly not for everyone!

Undoubtedly apprenticeships are an excellent way of encouraging hungry young talent into any industry with on-the-job training. Importantly, this isn’t just academic training either—it also provides valuable business experience too, which can be lacking in more traditional academic courses.

There has also been a lot of interest in ‘T-Levels’ in the UK. These are technology level courses that are designed to offer specific training for modern technology needs. It is very encouraging to see the promotion of technology education in this way, designed to appeal to students that are looking for a solid career in the UK technology sector.

There has been a lot of interest in ‘T Levels’ in the UK
Apprenticeships are an excellent way of encouraging hungry young talent into any industry with on-the-job training

Focus on engineering and vocational education

Unfortunately, it seems the UK is still somewhat behind our European cousins when it comes to technology education and training. Germany, for example, is a country that has traditionally excelled in these areas. The education system in Germany has heavily focussed on engineering and vocational-based training programmes, which has seen noticeable benefits for its technology sector.

The Germans have continued to focus on this for decades, meaning the country’s economy has an excellent pipeline of well-trained talent available. Taking this approach would greatly enhance training in the UK too, supporting up-and-coming talent and helping the next generation reach its potential.

A healthy influx of highly talented individuals from across Europe has helped to fill the UK skills gap over recent decades

Meeting business and technology needs

A healthy influx of highly talented individuals from across Europe has helped to fill the UK skills gap over recent decades. Undoubtedly, like many British businesses we have significantly benefited from this open and vibrant skills market. With the fine details of Brexit being negotiated at the moment, I hope this valuable source of skilled professionals won’t be denied to UK businesses.

Even if there are more stringent controls moving forward, the UK must continue to open its doors to this expertise—certainly until we can reap future generations of home-grown talent.

It’s interesting (and somewhat ironic) that when you look at some UK universities’ engineering faculties, they often have half or over half of their students from other countries. The UK has world-renowned education facilities that we should be proud of, and yet paradoxically, we are still not educating enough UK engineers.

There is a keen interest in technology from younger generations that needs to be nurtured

Skill-based training for economic growth

International trading and people movement will change after Brexit, but I hope there will also be a significant evolution in the education system to close the UK skills gap. The UK has some of the best educational establishments in the world and a long history of innovation and entrepreneurial skills to make our technology highly commercial.

Frustratingly, there is a keen interest in technology from younger generations—just look how addicted young people are to their screens. This keen interest needs to be nurtured and career choices in technology encouraged. With the right training opportunities in place (university education, apprenticeships and T-Levels), the UK can easily implement the tools to create the right opportunities.

However, what is really needed now is an impetus from political leaders to address training needs and ensure the economy continues to develop and grow to meet the challenges ahead.

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Author profile

John Davies Managing Director, TDSi

John joined TDSi in 2003 when it was owned by Norbain SD Limited and led the management buyout in February 2005. TDSi manufactures electronic access control and integrated security systems. Export sales have grown from 25% of the business to 40+%.

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