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Are we abandoning an industry responsible for 6% of our GDP?

By Neil Dickins


Hotels and restaurants, construction and healthcare are all suffering dramatic skills shortages as Brexit consigns the free movement of people to history.

The question now, is whether the electronics industry is to be condemned to the same desperate fate?

By donating to UKESF today, you can give back to the industry that gives you fresh coffee, and perfectly toasted bread and ensure that the electronics industry remains key to the UK economy for a generation.

The UK electronics sector is big business. Over 1,000,000 related jobs. £98 billion annual turnover. The 6th largest electronics industry in the world. Yet, we’re raising kids who, when asked about electronics, seem to think we’re talking about screen time. With only 25% of engineering grads studying electrical and electronic engineering, are we driving the industry head-first into a skills shortage that could put our position as a leading global electronics provider in jeopardy? In fact, in a survey that we commissioned alongside TechWorks and UKESF, 70% of companies surveyed had experienced a skills shortage in the 12 months prior to the survey.

These challenges aren’t going to redress themselves. Our days (and nights) are becoming increasingly driven by electronics. The UK is ideally placed to take the lead internationally IF it develops the right skills.

So, is the State responsible for keeping the electrical engineering industry at the back of the wardrobe, only daring to bring it out occasionally?

Yes and no. The introduction of government-imposed measures such as the EBacc seems sensible in encouraging STEM in general. However, funding is a constant pressure, leaving schools unable to invest in essential equipment to give students hands-on experience of subjects like electronics. This means schools are, through no fault of their own, short-changing the skilled sectors of tomorrow.

Who will choose to take on ‘A’ levels or even a degree based on a couple of hours’ experience at the most basic level? Hands up? It’s time we accept that the system isn’t gearing up to encourage students into the industry.

Thankfully, the UK Electronics Skills Foundation’s (UKESF) “Electronics Everywhere” campaign is stepping up to provide opportunities for hands-on experience in electronics and electrical engineering for ‘A’ Level Computing and Physics students. UKESF depends on donations and grants to provide electronics boards and sets for schools.

Last year, IC Resources was one of a cohort of companies who each donated £2,000 to “Electronics Everywhere” to give students hands-on experience that will make a difference that stretches beyond the classroom into an entire industry.

You could do your bit to make a difference too. For just £1,200, you can provide classroom sets of boards and essential training for teachers at two schools that could ignite young interests in electronics. Given that these boards might be used by 3 students each, for an average of 5 years, that’s about £2 per access to a hands-on electronics experience.

Just 1,000 more electronics professionals in the market would easily add over a billion pounds to the Exchequer during their careers, this seems a pretty good ROI.

Of the boards we donated, one set went to a school of our choice, and a further set went to an underfunded state school identified by the UKESF and the Institute of Physics. These boards are now being used within ‘A’ level Physics lessons to give students a taste of electronics that extends beyond Instagram and Snapchat. A taste of electronics that may well ignite a passion or spark an interest that will last a lifetime or even many lifetimes.

Of course, if you have no money set aside for that new coffee machine (or you just COULDN’T do without it), you can still do your bit, as UKESF offers a wide variety of opportunities for organisations to step up and bridge the funding gap to support the next generation of electronics engineers. Whether you wish to donate a fiver to enable a school child to create a basic electronics circuit, or whether you can find £1,500 to provide a bursary for a female undergrad at one of the UKESF’s partner universities, your contribution will benefit an industry at risk.

We can’t hide an entire industry in the cupboard beneath the stairs and then be surprised when it gathers dust and falls into a state of disrepair.

Besides, given that skilled candidates are having to jump through an increasing number of hoops to migrate to the UK, shouldn’t we be adding as many home-grown candidates to the talent pool as possible?

For now, maybe it’s time that we all step up to prevent the eventual short-changing of our electronics industry. Click here to support UKESF today.

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