How Seaward is plugging the skills gap

Tackling the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills gap is a continuing concern for the UK’s electrical manufacturing industry. Recent reports suggest 700,000 STEM specialists will be needed to meet employer demand by 2024.

Companies need to think creatively to attract and recruit the staff they so badly need – no mean feat with demand so high.

At Seaward we think we’ve found the solution. We believe apprentices and fresh talent are the key to our ongoing success – and we’re committed to recruiting and retaining them too. That’s why we’re putting young people at the centre of our vision for the future.

Since joining us full-time last year, 22-year-old software design engineer Matthew Frost has become an integral part of our innovative team developing new technology for Seaward products.

Matthew, who wanted to work in the technology field from a young age, originally studied computer science before he was offered the opportunity to join Seaward as a Junior Design Engineer.

Matthew said: “I chose Seaward because I felt it would give me more opportunities and help me improve as a software developer and designer in ways that other companies weren’t offering. In my time here I definitely feel my instincts have been proved right.”

One of Matthew’s key considerations since joining Seaward has been how he can help make jobs of electricians in the field much quicker and straightforward via innovative user-friendly technology.

Recent advances mean devices can store test records and allow the smoother and more efficient generation of reports, certificates and the scheduling of future tests.

Matthew said: “One of the first projects I worked on was an Android app that transferred results from one of our instruments and uploaded it to a location of the customer’s choosing.

“That app’s now been used as far away as Australia, which I am really proud of!

“It’s one of the key things I like about working here at Seaward: a lot of the challenges I face involve creating interfaces that the user finds easy to follow, while still providing them with as much information as possible.

“I enjoy the freedom I’ve got when approaching a problem with a project. I’m given the time and encouraged to find new methods. Every day I learn something new from either my own research or from my colleagues.

“A helpful part of our process is the design reviews. This is where we can get feedback on our work from colleagues and give them a chance to point out anything we might have overlooked.

“Having that extra input from colleagues really inspires me to think about new approaches and solutions.”

With just 112,000 STEM apprenticeships starting in 2016/17 and only 24 per cent of university leavers working in STEM occupations six months after graduating, it’s essential that companies prioritise recruitment if they’re to compete in the shrinking talent pool.

One of our newest team members, 17-year-old Brett Spence, is already settling into his role as a Quality and Process Engineering Apprentice.

Brett said: “I’ve always been interested in a career in engineering and when I visited Seaward and heard about the plans the team has for the future of the business I was convinced it was the best place for me.

“There is so much scope for progression and I can see first-hand the direction the company is going in and how my department has an impact.”

Brett’s wide ranging role involves all aspects of engineering, from product assembly processes to the quality of the finished products received by the end customer – and everything in between.

He continued: “I love that no two days are the same. One day I could be helping set up a production line for a new product and the next day I could be carrying out COSHH assessments or working on standard operating procedures.

“The support and encouragement has been fantastic – I am given so many opportunities to work on different things and build my skills.”

At Seaward we offer apprenticeships in a range of departments including engineering, production, marketing and finance.

Tom Talbot, HR and customer experience director, said: “At Seaward we are committed to recruiting and building the skills of our young people.

“The electrical testing industry is full of opportunities to build life-long careers and it’s fantastic to see younger people coming in with fresh ideas and growing into indispensable members of our team.

“Continuous professional development is a huge focus for us and there is always scope to progress for those who want to.”

For Brett, his future at Seaward is bright.

He said: “I can’t wait to see what the future brings – it’s a really exciting time to be in the industry.

“I’m in the early stages of my career but my confidence is growing all the time and I can already see how many doors will be opened to me as I progress.”

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