After years of overmanning, the chemicals industry is finding itself facing a skills gap. At middle management level in particular, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find experienced candidates in certain disciplines, such as chemical, industrial and electronic engineering – a situation that been caused partly by a general decline in UK manufacturing, but also by a lack of foresight when it comes to succession planning.
The industry has failed to attract and train up graduates and apprentices, instead retaining staff with the lure of a generous pension scheme and a job ‘for life’. More recently, efficiency drives and cost cutting have compounded the issue, with businesses relying on their in-house expertise and neglecting the need to replace and sustain their skill base. As a result, the UK has had to scour the overseas market to get the skills they need, unable to rely on in house talent to fill the gap.
Fortunately, attitudes are changing with an industry-wide recognition of the necessity of attracting graduates and apprentices into the industry. We are starting to see the results of many excellent, concerted, sector-wide efforts to attract students to sciences, maths, engineering and technology courses – and we can be optimistic that this will help to build long-term sustainability in the market.
Inspiring passion for a subject at an early age is vital to nurturing talent. And at any level of expertise, an enthusiasm for self development is a crucial trait when we are recruiting. Candidates must have the potential to develop in some respect and to offer to a business and share their existing expertise, whether that means long-term succession potential to internal executive management or simply the willingness and ability to pick new processes quickly.
Most importantly for individual businesses, good succession planning is good for profits. When we appoint new board level directors, we often see operational profits, intrinsic public confidence and company value rise substantially – talent matters to stakeholders and investors. Having the plans in place to maintain quality and strength in leadership is essential for the sustainability, growth and future of a business.