The European electronics industry is in growth and the demand for consumer electronics is growing year on year driven by demand for TV’s, headphones and high-definition sound systems. Within commercial and industrial industries, the requirement for smarter, more efficient electronics is also driving strong growth.
In the UK alone, the electronics industry contributes over 80 billion to the economy, equates to 5.4% of UK GDP and employs over 8 thousand people.
There is however growing industry concern around labour-shortages within the electronics industry and worries over appropriate workforce skill levels. A recent study found that 72 percent of manufacturers believe there is a labour shortage of electronics professionals and two thirds found difficulty recruiting production and design engineers in the past two years. One of the most adversely hit industries is PCB fabricators, designers and manufacturers, a sector of which 95% are SME’s.
As these companies look to cut costs and drive efficiencies to stay competitive, many larger organisations have considered moving manufacturing functions to other countries to take advantage of cheaper labour costs. This unfortunately only further compounds the reported skill shortages within the UK.
And across the water the story is no different, with American SME’s under similar pressure to recruit and train the most appropriate staff to undertake PCB design work. In a study done by the IPC, the association representing the global electronics industry, there are a number of reasons for these concerning issues.
Demand for talent in electronics manufacturing has grown faster than the supply, due in part to an ageing workforce. Issues such as poor public perception, gaps in skill levels and employee retention and development have also been cited as contributing factors to the problems faced by the industry.
There has however within the past few years been a greater focus on encouraging young people into manufacturing and electronic industries, with the resurgence of apprenticeships and a greater push for organisations to work in unison with local authorities, business networks and local education providers.
There are many examples of where these activities have been successful. Initiatives such as the one lead by the UK Electronic Skills Foundation are a great example of where bridging the gap between employer and education providers have helped to promote the industry. Electronics organisations from the Cambridge area held competitions for school students, in order to stimulate interest and raise awareness of the electronics industry and its career opportunities. It is hoped that projects like these will gain momentum and be championed across other parts of the UK.
The shifting focus of schools towards engineering and manufacturing subjects has seen a rise in demand for engineering and technology degree courses through UCAS. However this does not seem to have had the same effect on applications to electronic engineering degrees. Nor does it seem to have had increased the number of people entering apprenticeships within the industry.
One of the areas that has been highlighted as a concern for the industry, is the lack of opportunities once in electronics-based employment. Many of these careers require a degree and have an entry-level starting salary of £18,000; £8,000 below the average starting salary for a graduate. It is also perceived that once in an electronics-based career, the opportunities for growth and continuous development are more limited than other industries.
Quadra Solutions and the IPC are looking to change this.
The Certified Interconnect Designer (CID) qualification seeks to enhance and improve the skills of individuals in the electronics industry. The qualification, accredited by the IPC, is to be delivered by Quadra’s highly skilled and experienced trainers at their specialist training facility in Lancashire. This world-leading training programme seeks to enhance and improve the skills of individuals operating within the electronic design industry.
More and more companies expect electronic engineers to be trained to this level and the qualification ensures a level of efficiency and effectiveness is maintained during design work. The challenge comes however that whilst many of these companies expect that level of design work quality, it is less likely for them to invest in their staff in this way.
In a recent survey of electronic design professionals they said they felt there were insufficient opportunities for growth and development and that given the opportunity to undertake further training, would be keen to do so.
For more information about the IPC CID Training course and how it could benefit you and your organisation, contact us IPC_CID@quadrasol.co.uk.