26 Jul, 2018 / BY Neil Sharp

How engineering placements can address the UK manufacturing skills gap

The skills gap continues to be an issue that looms large in the UK manufacturing sector, as companies strive to secure graduates with the right mix of technical knowledge, personal skills and practical experience to operate in an increasingly fast paced, challenging and evolving environment.

For Electronics Manufacturing Services (EMS) providers, the challenges involved in outsourcing projects can be many and varied - from the responsibility for building, testing and shipping complex industrial products, to managing multiple product ranges and supporting customers throughout the entire product cycle.

So how can manufacturers ensure that any graduates they bring in to their companies are ‘business ready’ and that they are equipped with the vital combination of technical, practical and commercial training that a career in electronics or electro-mechanical engineering demands?

In this blog post we provide an overview of the application and recruitment process of JJS’s own Engineering Placement programme.

We also discuss the role that industrial placements can play in addressing the manufacturing skills gap, both from the perspective of the company and the employee.

Applying for an Engineering Placement

Engineering placements are a fixed-term period of paid employment, typically 12-months in length, and usually take place in the third year of an undergraduate's degree.

Here at JJS, the application and recruitment process for our Engineering Placement scheme begins around October each year. There's an opportunity for engineering undergraduates to meet members of our team at the Loughborough University Graduate and Placement Fair which are held in February and October each year.

At this early stage, it’s a chance for interested students to speak informally to our staff and to find out a little more about what our placement scheme has to offer.

It’s worth noting too, that while our scheme is naturally targeted towards manufacturing students, it’s open to all technically-minded undergraduates, regardless of their background, who can demonstrate an interest in electronics or electro-mechanical manufacturing.

Following on from the careers fair, the next step is to attend our Open Evening event, usually held around November at our Lutterworth site. This is the chance for prospective applicants to take a tour of the manufacturing facility and to witness first-hand the wide variety of products that JJS is responsible for.

For those who are interested in taking the process further, it’s then a case of filling out an online submission form which needs to be submitted in December.

The first round of interviews then typically begins around February each year. Successful applicants will be invited to take part in a series of informal ‘speed interviews’, usually via either phone or video.

More formal face-to-face interviews then take place in March. At this stage applicants will also be asked to participate in an assessment process which has been designed to challenge their logical thinking, their communication skills and their ability to work as part of a team.

Applicants who are successful in gaining a place on the engineering placement scheme will then be advised within a matter of weeks (by the end of April), and will take up their new position in July.

A springboard into manufacturing

From an undergraduate’s perspective, an Engineering Placement can provide an invaluable, hands-on, immersive learning opportunity that is impossible to replicate in a classroom environment.

There’s the chance to be exposed to every element of a company’s operation, to learn how each department relates to each other and to work alongside experienced technical and engineering teams on a wide range of projects.

Engineering placements can also often provide a natural springboard into a company’s graduate scheme (and in doing so reducing the graduate programme from 2 years to one.) From there, there’s often the opportunity for successful applicants to transition into a permanent role within the company.

For employers, placement schemes offer the chance to build a highly-skilled workforce, to boost productivity and to create the foundations for a positive and long-lasting employer-employee relationship.

While there's little doubt that the UK manufacturing skills gap will continue to present its challenges, a commitment to industrial placement programmes can go a long way to building a passionate and highly-skilled workforce.

An executive guide to outsourcing your electronics manufacturing

Written by Neil Sharp

Neil has over 25 years’ experience in Electronics Manufacturing Services and Component Distribution. During his career, Neil has held a range of leadership positions in sales, marketing, and customer service. Neil is currently part of the ESCATEC Senior Management Team and is responsible for setting and delivering the overall Group Marketing strategy. Neil heads up the marketing department and is responsible for both the strategy and the implementation of innovative marketing campaigns designed to deliver high quality content to those seeking outsourcing solutions.