It’s time to get creative to solve the talent shortage
Imagine going into a shop and asking for an item. They tell you they’re out of stock, so what do you do? You ask them for it again and again and again.
Employers are doing something rather similar in Fire & Security when it comes to hiring engineers. There’s a finite supply which is dwindling steadily, as older colleagues retire andtheir potential replacements fail to grasp the attractions of an engineering career.
If you look at the job boards, you’ll see ‘fire & security experience essential’ in many ads. It’s understandable from the employer’s point of view - and the experience is still out there - but it’s unsustainable in an industry that’s growing steadily even in the Covid-19 era.
Developing a new generation of engineers
Clearly the solution is to attract new people into the industry and give them the launchpad they need to develop as Fire & Security specialists.
The talent is certainly out there. Engineering generally has been hit hard by the pandemic and there are some excellent people out of a job who, with the right cross-training, would be superb additions to any company’s team.
Then at entry levels we’re creating barriers that exclude potential. I’ve met many people with great technical aptitude who build their own computers and can strip down an engine, but who don’t have the required GCSEs. Given the right opportunity they could fly.
In short, we’re making life more difficult for ourselves than we need to as an industry, but that doesn’t have to be the case, if we can find a way to open the doors wider.
Breaking down the barriers
To increase the flow of talent into the industry we’re first going to have to attract and develop people with potential and transferrable skills.
That’s not beyond the grasp of individual employers, but many view the process as too complicated, time-consuming and costly, with the risk of their ROI being fried when their newly trained engineer is poached.
Zitko Talent addresses these obstacles head-on – by doing the heavy lifting when it comes to promoting the industry as a career opportunity; identifying outstanding talent; and providing a training infrastructure that makes financial sense to employers.
We’re doing so on the basis that as an industry we’re stronger together…
A new alliance
Zitko Talent is an alliance of employers, manufacturers, training companies and trade bodies. Together we’ve developed a 12-month foundation programme that offers trainees paid work experience, technical education and certified manufacturer systems training.
You can read more about the programme here, but here’s the bottom line. Trainees receive the intensive development they need to get a flying start in the industry. Host employers gain a new team member custom-trained to work in their specific technical environment.
Together we’re doing the following:
- Actively promoting Fire & Security tech as a career to experienced engineers in other sectors, to ex Forces personnel, school and college leavers, career changers with exceptional aptitude and to under-represented groups.
- Administering all training and education centrally: Zitko Talent maintains each trainee’s personalised development plan; and schedules all training, education and awards direct with the manufacturers and training companies.
- Reducing training costs: the programme’s partnership agreements, shared administration and economies of scale dramatically reduce costs to employers.
- Building for the future. We aim to give 1,000 people a year the start they need to develop their technical skills and industry career long-term.
Our first trainees
The first cohort begin their programme in November. They’ll be joining their employers for initial induction and will then move on to their first education and training block. Selection for the next quarterly intake is already underway.
The group includes graduates, experienced engineers and career changers: people who 12 months from now (or sooner) will be useful team members, with a sound grasp of the fundamentals of Fire & Security systems.
We trust that will be just the beginning of their journey and we’re looking forward to seeing their stories unfold in the coming years.