Apprenticeship matchmaking tool aims to close Scotland’s manufacturing skills gap

08/03/2024
First Minister Humza Yousaf, NMIS chief executive Chris Courtney and several apprentices outside the NMIS facility

A NEW platform designed to simplify recruitment and support job seekers looking for apprenticeships and graduate roles could help to address challenges of finding talent and encourage more young people into Scotland’s manufacturing and engineering sector.

The Manufacturing Skills Academy at the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland (NMIS), operated by the University of Strathclyde and part of the UK’s High Value Manufacturing Catapult, is working with Skills Development Scotland to explore the feasibility of a ‘Pre-Approved Talent’ scheme – based on similar principles to the university clearing system – to streamline recruitment processes.

The initiative is supported with funding through the Scottish Government’s ‘Making Scotland’s Future’ programme. Its launch coincides with Scottish Apprenticeship Week 2024, which takes place from 4 to 8 March.

Large manufacturers typically receive hundreds of applications for entry level roles and, despite having many potential candidates who are successful at assessment centres and interviews, often need to turn people away. By contrast, smaller businesses have told NMIS they struggle to find applicants because of limited resources and advertising options to raise awareness of vacancies.

Through this new platform and with consent from the job hunter, smaller businesses could gain access to the pool of talent that narrowly missed out on roles at larger companies and direct candidates towards similar positions. It also aims to empower more young people to enter the sector and choose careers in manufacturing.

Four large organisations and 20 SMEs have partnered with the Manufacturing Skills Academy to trial the online platform across Scotland’s central belt. The database will feature a range of filters to allow businesses to sort candidates by geographical location and qualifications. If successful, the scheme could be rolled out across the UK, with potential to expand into other sectors outside of manufacturing and engineering. 

A report by WorldSkills UK found that 83% of young people report facing ‘barriers’ to enter manufacturing, with 48% saying that they have never received information about why or how to do so. Meanwhile two-thirds of UK SMEs are struggling to attract young workers to new roles, according to research from Barclays.

Dr Avril Thomson, head of skills programmes at the Manufacturing Skills Academy, said: “The demand for manufacturing and engineering skills is on the rise and we have a pool of enthusiastic young people who want to get into jobs across the sector. At the moment, however, we’re seeing a gap where smaller businesses struggle to find the right people despite the fact that hundreds are applying for positions at larger companies.

“The Pre-Approved Talent scheme will support both candidates and potential employers. Candidates will be hand-picked and the employers will have the reassurance from another company that they are suitable for the role. By offering a matchmaking style service we hope to speed up and simplify the recruitment process and encourage more talent into the sector.”

Gordon McGuinness, director of industry & enterprise networks at Skills Development Scotland, said: “Apprenticeships play a vital role in Scotland’s economy, bringing economic benefits not just for employers, but the communities they serve.

“Looking at how we can further improve recruitment, and in particular to widen out the quality talent pool for smaller businesses, is bound to make a positive impact, we look forward to working with partners to test the new approach.”

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