the Skills Shortage in the Lubricant sector

In this article UKLA Director-General David Wright looks at ways employers can meet their skills shortages in future.

In 2015 the European Commission looked at the scarcity of graduate skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics across Europe. Authored by Fondazione Giacomo Brodolini, a leading research agency, the report found that these ‘STEM’ skills were essential in delivering Europe’s growth and jobs but there were not enough technical graduates to fill all vacancies.

Demand amongst employers for STEM skilled labour is expected to increase to around 7 million new jobs by 2025. At the same time high numbers of STEM workers are approaching retirement age, not enough new technical graduates are qualifying and women are underrepresented in STEM careers.

For the lubricant industry an ageing Western European workforce and too few qualified STEM graduates means that the sector has to look at new solutions to be able to meet its own needs for people qualified in these subjects if they are to compete effectively in an increasingly technical and complex market.

Larger employers like ExxonMobil have the necessary resources to invest in the skills of their employees to drive their businesses forward. For medium and smaller enterprises the costs of investing in training programmes for employees are not cheap, and without well defined career paths available to their employees, smaller companies risk losing qualified staff to other employers.

In the UK, Government has undertaken a raft of reforms aimed at supporting employers to improve skills levels in their organisations. In April 2017 an Apprentice levy was introduced for employers with a payroll in excess of £3 million per annum who would be charged a percentage of staff costs they could then invest in Apprenticeship schemes recognised by Government. For employers who do not pay the levy then UK Government has agreed to co-fund investment in Apprenticeship training programmes allowing employers to grow their own technical skills in-house.

Apprenticeships come in a variety of forms; from school-leaver schemes designed to promote technical education at the same time as delivering employee capability, to graduate level apprentices aligned to higher education qualifications such as formal degrees and diplomas over an extended period, perhaps as long as four years.

UK universities such as Chester and Middlesex have been pioneering in providing support to employer apprenticeship programmes which have been partly or even fully funded by


UK Government. In 2015 the University of Chester partnered with the Chartered Management Institute to provide a graduate level Apprenticeship over a four year period which would lead to multiple awards including Chartered Manager status and an honours degree in business, for the individual.

The United Kingdom Lubricants Association partnered with the Arkwright Scholarship programme in 2014 to provide young people with the opportunity to further their interest in careers in engineering, specifically within the lubricants sector. The programme which takes place over a two year period, allows young scholars between the ages of 16-18 years opportunities for work experience, sector familiarisation and an in-depth view of the careers available in technical disciplines within participating companies which included RS Clare, Morris Lubricants and Houghton.

This year UKLA is following up the programme with an industry familiarisation day for Arkwright Scholars at its new premises in Chesham, Buckinghamshire. On October 24th young people will be immersed in an intensive one day programme to learn about the types of careers available in the lubricants sector.

Although formal induction programmes still have a role to play in up-skilling employees, ongoing training and professional development are essential for individuals to maintain their knowledge and skills in effective lubricant practice. The industry changes constantly at an ever-increasing rate. Training programmes offered by trade associations such as UKLA’s Certificate of Lubricant Competence or UNITI’s Academy programme have an important role to play in maintaining skills.

The introduction last year of UKLA’s Registered Lubricant Professional programme allows individuals to tailor their own professional development programmes with their employers, within a defined and recognised structure that is flexible enough to adapt to individual circumstances.

The days of poaching staff from other organisations with the right skills may be coming to an end if there are fewer qualified employees available. By looking at modern and flexible training programmes, employers can ensure they have the right skills needed to power their companies in future.

For more information on professional development and training programmes available from UKLA.


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