Meeting the skills needs of the Foundation Industries

The Foundation Industries (FIs) comprise the cement, glass, ceramics, paper, metals and bulk chemicals sectors. Transforming Foundations Industries (TFI) is one of the UKRI/Innovate UK funded Industrial Strategy Challenge Funds (ISCF), which aim to support businesses to share expertise and develop radical innovations to increase their sustainability and remain internationally competitive. TFI will invest £149 million through the ISCF to ensure the FIs sectors make improvements to their energy and resource efficiency, meaning they are ready to meet the government commitment of Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050.

As part of the Challenge, it was recognised that skills are a key element in driving/enabling innovation. UKRI/Innovate UK commissioned SQW and its associates Carol Stanfield and David Brown (Trihelica Ltd.) to conduct a study to assess the future skills needs in the FIs. The study, which ran between November 2020 and June 2021, involved a review of existing reports and interviews and workshops with representatives from over 60 businesses, sector bodies, education and training providers, and other relevant organisations.

This research led SQW to develop an Action Plan for the FIs, designed to address four themes: raising awareness of Net Zero and demand for skills within the FIs; developing management and leadership; improving skills provision; and improving sector attractiveness. The Action Plan comprises ten actions, to be taken forward by or with the support of Innovate UK:

  1. Establish a TFI Innovation Skills Taskforce which has a clearly defined purpose and objectives, comprises a coalition of enthusiastic employers and leads on the detailed design and delivery of the action plan
  2. Link the Taskforce to the Advisory Group (and other FI groups), ensuring skill-related objectives are included in the Terms of Reference of those groups
  3. Develop a single, online point of access for FIs which articulates the need for skills investment and signposts to resources, in the short term, to highlight courses which are currently available and wider UKRI resources, and in the longer term, to expand and include opportunities developed through the Taskforce (e.g., Management Degree Apprenticeship, mentoring programmes, secondments, graduate programmes, etc.)
  4. Convene and pool informed employer demand for skills and facilitate discussions with providers to improve provision, using tailored generic frameworks, and improve provider capacity
  5. Support a pilot group of employers to employ Apprentices to demonstrate how existing Apprenticeships Standards can be used to ensure sufficient demand to be attractive to providers
  6. Facilitate business engagement in curriculum design, student sponsorship opportunities
  7. Commission bespoke short-course provision for FI innovation management.  Promote use of Management Knowledge Transfer Partnerships and engage with Help to Grow Expert Advisory Council to explore possibilities for delivery of innovation management provision
  8. Develop and communicate a narrative for the FIs, encapsulating critical role in Net Zero and associated skill requirements.
  9. Work with partners (e.g., STEM Ambassadors, Careers Enterprise Company, Skills Development Scotland) to position the sector as a career choice and promote diversity (e.g., through working with Women in Science and Engineering)
  10. As capacity improves, incentivise learning activities through IUK funding.  This could include asking those bidding for funding to commit to hiring apprentices, taking on student placements, secondments, etc.

The final report and full Action Plan for the FIs can be found here.