The ever pressing need to adapt and upskill in science and engineering

Mar 27, 2023 | Retention

By Stephen Fasham, CEO, Covelya Group

The pace of digitalisation has been on a steep upward trajectory for well over a decade and, according to a McKinsey survey, this pace was further accelerated — by around four years — as a result of Covid-19. In the ever-evolving world of science and engineering, the effects of digitalisation are even starker. 

With global spending on digital transformation estimated to reach 3.4 trillion USD by 2026, advancements in technology show no signs of slowing any time soon. This is good news for businesses who keep up with the technological evolution, as doing so could lead to revenue uplift, enhanced connections, improved collaboration, and the ability to transform operations for the better. 

The reality of falling behind 

‘Keeping up’ is the key term here. Something that’s admittedly easier said than done. The main threat to those who don’t is losing serious competitive edge, posing an overwhelming challenge for leaders. 

As an economy, not just a single company, we must ensure that we address this very real issue. If we fail to, other countries who manage the situation better will emerge on top. Northern Europe, USA and Scandinavia, for example, are making strong moves to adapt to new innovations. Our European cousins also benefit from access to the whole of the EU, which unless we take urgent action to adapt and upskill, will put the UK’s science and engineering industry at a disadvantage. 

Invest in existing and mature staff 

When we think about upskilling our workforces, the focus can often turn to the younger generation and older team members disregarded because of their apparent inexperience of technology and the wider digital world. This approach is flawed — not just from an ethical standpoint, but a practical one too.  

As leaders, we need to recognise that people in high value roles — often the more mature staff — need to feel relevant in the workplace. They need to have their minds challenged and feel empowered to carry out their job in the most effective way possible, which is achieved through constant refreshing or adaption of their skills. 

When we think of how long people may work for now — often until their late 60s and sometimes beyond — we realise how important it is to keep their minds fresh and their skills up to date. 

Training the trainers

Far from being an exclusive essential for new starters or young recruits, adapting and updating skills should be considered a must for everyone. By everyone, I’m not just talking in terms of age, but role and responsibility too. Everyone from assembly operators to Board members should have their skills consistently refreshed. Investing in the training of managers enables them to recognise skill gaps in their own teams, which helps further workforce development. 

Recruiting in the current climate is without a doubt, more difficult than ever. While continuing to attract new candidates from diverse backgrounds is vital, it’s also critical to invest in the staff we already have — everyone regardless of what stage of their life and career they are at — so that we can keep them interested and productive, so we remain competitive, and so that we continue to deliver expertise to customers, now and well into the future.

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