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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ISC West 2018 day three: Biggest-ever show highlights emerging technologies
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BrainChip uses a type of AI called “spiking neural networking” that models the operation of neurons in the human brain - in contrast to “convolutional neural networks,” which use a series of math functions to train from pre-labelled data sets. The BrainChip Studio software can search vast amounts of video footage rapidly to identify either faces, patterns or objects. Applications are in law enforcement, counter-terrorism and intelligence agencies.The BrainChip Studio software can search vast amounts of video footage rapidly to identify either faces, patterns or objects “We search for specific things,” said Bob Beachler, Senior Vice President, Marketing and Business Development. The software can search hundreds of live or recorded camera feeds for a unique graphic pattern on an item of clothing or on a bag carried by a person, for example. The technology only requires modest processing power and consumes little energy, so it can be used with legacy systems without requiring hardware or infrastructure upgrades.  Emerging Technology Zone A new Emerging Technology Zone at ISC West included participation by around 40 companies that are startups and/or new to the security industry. The section opened an hour before the main show floor and was located near the registration area, which increased traffic. “Generally speaking some people said it was hard to find, but I think it’s better for us as someone new to the market, rather than being on the main floor where you can get lost in the shuffle,” said Jeffrey Weiner, Vice President, Networks & Business Solutions, at Mersoft. “It was really smart that they opened this an hour earlier.” Mersoft, one of the Emerging Technology Zone exhibitors, has developed a software product to help the security industry do a better job of streaming live video. The software eliminates the startup delay and lag in live video. With dedicated software, video can be consumed by a browser or mobile app more easily Live video streaming “We accomplish that in two ways,” says Weiner. “One, we don’t trans-code the video into another format. Instead, we convert a security camera’s video from RTSP (real time streaming protocol) to WebRTC (Web Real-Time Communication), an open-source technology that has been used extensively in video conferencing, but not so much in security. The video can be consumed by a browser or mobile app more easily, and we don’t need a player on the client, which is another way we reduce lag.” Another advantage is that WebRTC is natively encrypted; every packet is encrypted. In contrast, applications that transmit RTSP have to be wrapped in a VPN (virtual private network) tunnel, which takes some effort to maintain and is a battery hog on a mobile device. Also, multi-casting of video is easier, even using streams of various resolutions. Mersoft works through partnerships, offering a cloud-hosted service on Amazon and a version that can be installed on a local server. They have worked with several DIY camera sellers (who use cloud services), and with some major commercial service providers. “A new partnership strategy we are exploring is with systems integrators, who can incorporate Mersoft and provide a differentiator by improving their video performance,” says Weiner. The 22-year-old company is new to security, and ISC West provides opportunities for in-depth conversations preparing for a future in the security sector. Customisable turnstile solutions Delta highlighted their new designer series turnstiles, whose colourful appearance led booth visitors to ask about customisation Even the smaller companies, located toward the back of the hall, were enthusiastic about ISC West this year. “The show has been great,” says Vanessa Howell, project manager of Delta Turnstiles. “We did get a lot of traffic. I am a niche product, so it’s not so much about quantity as quality [of leads]. I had great quality at the show.” Being away from competitors, which are grouped next to each other in the front of the hall, was an upside of the turnstile company’s booth location toward the back. Delta highlighted their new designer series turnstiles, whose colourful appearance led booth visitors to ask about customisation. “They ask: ‘Why are turnstiles only sold in basic models?’” says Howell. “’Why can’t they look like a piece of art since they are the first thing people see when they enter a building?’ People are very open to making them prettier.”  Delta Turnstiles has been coming to ISC West since 2006. “I have manufacturer’s reps, and this is one of two times I get to see them in one place, and they bring a lot of customers to me at the booth,” says Howell. “This is my only face-to-face meetings with some customers. I speak mostly over the phone.” Valuable face-to-face engagement was a benefit of ISC West, and many of those meetings will likely set the stage for continuing successes in our vibrant market. Until next year.