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Academics and industry join forces to bridge the skills gap

05 April, 2021

A new chapter has begun in the never-ending story of tackling skills shortages in the UK’s manufacturing sector. Nikesh Mistry*, Gambica’s sector head for industrial automation, explains how a new group has been set up that brings together representatives of academia and industry with the aim of coming up with novel ideas to tackle the problem. 

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. This proverb can be applied to many varying scenarios and interpretations, but for this article I would like to use it in the context of our industry and its future.

The manufacturing sector can only be as strong as we make it. If we have any weak links, then we are setting ourselves up to fail. The weak links I’m referring to range from the adoption of new technologies, to the gap in the skills between IT and OT activities.

Diving further into the skills gap, we need to look at the future of our workforce and focus on training and developing their skills to ensure that our industry is as strong as we’d like it to be in the future. The real question is: how do we do this?

Last year, I mentioned that Gambica was holding its first conference on university and industry collaboration. This virtual event turned out to be a huge success, with delegates from UK industry and academic institutions exploring how they could collaborate in the areas of teaching, career development, research, policy and sharing best practice.

We were thrilled with the high level of participation that generated so much content that we have since formed a Gambica University and Industry Collaboration Group that, we believe, will deliver value to both academic and industry members.

It became apparent that by using the networking capabilities of a trade association such as Gambica, UK universities and industrial businesses could both target and discuss their interests, and help each other to ensure that our future workforce will be competitive. Previously, we had noted that many industry members felt students did not have the right capabilities to meet industry requirements. On the other hand, academia felt that industry can struggle when it comes to defining what it wants from graduates. So what better solution than to bring the two together to achieve maximum efficiency through collaboration?

In the Gambica University and Industry Collaboration Group, we want to address the opportunities that are presented, rather than re-inventing the wheel in relation to activities that were established before the group was set up. The idea is to formulate a clear and effective way for Gambica’s members to interact with universities and vice versa, around placements, employability and research.

We have established a group council that will facilitate effective collaboration as the combined voice of universities and industry. It will keep activities in academia relevant and in sync with industry and market trends, as well as reinforcing appropriate commercial considerations for research projects and engineering education.

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