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EU: should we stay or should we go? A VSD repairer's view

17 June, 2016


Concerns around the skills gap in the electronics engineering sector are ongoing – an issue which sits somewhat outside of the EU referendum outcome. There is a significant lack of practical electronics skills in the UK and it is undoubtedly an area where higher education institutions should focus. However, this is a trend that we are also seeing in other Western European education systems. The electronics service industry needs not only academic skills, but also practical skills to perform repairs and upgrades to the growing number of automated systems that we find in everyday life and work.

Like many UK businesses, NDC is supporting the growth of engineering skills by introducing our own graduate apprenticeship scheme. This enables us to take on degree-qualified engineers and then develop their practical skills to ensure that they can meet the levels of ability and quality that the industry needs.

Our workforce has been the key to exploiting our export potential. We have 14 nationalities working for the company in management, technical, customer support, sales and marketing roles. They have brought with them not only language skills and cultural knowledge, but also technical skills that are in short supply within the UK.

As is the nature of diversity, our approach is to employ the very best people we can find, independent of nationality. If those people are EU residents, then it is easy. However, if those candidates are from outside of the EU, it represents more of a problem. Employing someone from outside of the EU means that the candidate must meet strict criteria and must be sponsored by a Home Office registered employer. Criteria such as this could become more commonplace when employing EU citizens if we are no longer a member state.

Like other UK engineering businesses, NDC is affected by the skills shortage. The company finds it easier to recruit skilled personnel from within the EU, than outside.

On the flipside, perhaps the reduced availability of these skills, by ending free movement, will push the UK education system and industry training programmes to develop courses that truly start to address the UK skills shortage.

For the time being, we continue to be in a period of ifs, buts and maybes surrounding the upcoming EU referendum.  Like most SMEs, even with all the information out there, at NDC we can only speculate how the result of the referendum will truly affect our business.

Northern Drives & Controls recently won a Queen's Award for Enterprise for International Trade.

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