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Industry-wide labour shortage of skilled fibre technicians

Comms Centre Training. Could now be the time to gain a qualification in the Network Cabling Industry?

Could now be the time to gain a qualification in the 
Network Cabling Industry?

The labour skills shortage is nothing new and is hitting every industry right now. With the ramp up of FTTx it is becoming very apparent within the fibre industry.

Chris Atkin, Managing Director at Total Comms Training states “even before the Covid pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns, it was apparent that there were skills shortages beginning to emerge in the supply side of the UK economy. Certain sectors of industry were reporting acute skills shortages due to either underinvestment or perhaps the impact of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union. Either way, the signs were there 4 or more years ago”.

Why are we seeing a skills gap?

There are a multitude of factors as to why we are seeing this skills gap. Three of those reasons are:

Rapid Expansion of Fibre Optic Network

Replacing copper cables is necessity. Better connectivity across the UK means, superfast broadband, less time spent on degrading copper cable and generally better for the economy. Advancement in digital technologies and demand for access to high-speed internet service have caused a boost in the rollout of full-fibre broadband across the UK. This growth has outpaced the availability of skilled technicians, resulting in a supply-demand gap. With the fibre to the home rollout now in full swing across the UK it has meant that the fibre labour force is at capacity so new labour is required.

Lack of Specialised Training and Education

Keith Sawyer RCDD Tech, Group Tech Services Director shared his view on this, saying that for many years companies have relied on specialists when it came to fibre installations, very happy to have engineers trained and working on copper systems but rather feeling that fibre was a bit of a ‘black art’. It was often a smaller part of an overall installation and so using subcontract labour was a very easy option.  The skills gap and lack of desire to train fibre engineers was apparent from the outset.

The problem for the new labour force is that it needs to be up and running now, with almost no time allowed for comprehensive training to be given. If there is any training, it is invariably carried out in-house by the most experienced engineer and is often a quick show and tell before they are out working by themselves.

This in turn leads to poor installations which will mean revisits and repairs, costing time and money. Also putting further demands on a very depleted work force.

Impact of Brexit

As we have already mentioned, both Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic has taken a significant toll on the recruitment processes and having increased impact on staff retention levels. Amidst a pool of vacant positions, employers are having a really hard time when it comes to attracting the best talent. Outsourcing workers from the European Union isn’t on the cards anymore, and employees can potentially lack both hard and soft skills.

Both Atkin and Sawyer agree this is on record as the most severe skills shortage that the UK has ever faced and is likely to slow Britain’s economic growth. Although trade sectors, such as construction, engineering, and IT, are affected the most, the UK labour shortage spans across all industries. In a recent KPMG pulse survey, 70 per cent of the companies that participated said they found it difficult or very difficult to attract and retain employees.

The answer is to get the engineers on recognised, accredited courses as soon as possible. 


Why is additional training and development important?

More than 50 per cent of the respondents in the KPMG survey said they believe that flexibility in terms of skills and career development is critical. Attracting the best talent starts in-house. For an employee to leave an organisation, apart from personal reasons, they might feel underappreciated, stuck, or unfairly treated. Providing additional training and demonstrating a culture of learnability through the organisation can not only map out a pathway of progression for current employees but also attract new talent.

Moving forward

Although the UK skills shortage is challenging for businesses, employees, and the economy, it presents an opportunity to rethink your business model, upskill your current workforce, and attract new top-tier talent. In the long run, you will have valued employees that are trained to the best of their abilities and with a clear future in your organisation.

What we can do

Simply put, we train!

 For over nine years, through our close partnership with our fully accredited training provider, Total Comms, Comms Centre have provided a comprehensive range of City and Guilds communications cabling qualifications, all linked to short training programmes. With the introduction of the new level 3 qualifications, it really offers the industry a fantastic opportunity to develop skills, to enhance those skills, which are very much in demand and, to offer a skills and training pathway!

We are changing the face of the industry!!

Get in touch to find our more and get yourself on a course today.

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