Engineering Success project update July 2020

22nd July 2020

Plans for the Engineering Success talent sharing platform are being accelerated to meet the demands of businesses in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

NAAME hosted an initial meeting online on 17 June to introduce the thinking behind the Talent Sharing Platform (TSP). The initial project was developed pre-Covid and included ideas for lots of different activity, including the Talent Sharing Platform. However, the pandemic has changed all that. The team knows the sector faces a tough time, particularly as furloughing ends. It has therefore decided to focus on the Talent Sharing Platform as a matter of urgency to meet industry demands for greater workforce flexibility.

Following this meeting, a working group was established which met on July 14 to consider potential designs for the TSP.

The Talent Sharing Platform's initial aims

Initially the TSP will focus on sharing manufacturing and engineering (M&E) skills in the region. The immediate need is to avoid losing talent from the region or from the M&E sector. We want to help retain as much talent as possible so it is still on hand when M&E businesses start growing again.

We are aiming to have a minimum viable product running by September, and have established a small working group to oversee the project: Matthew Potter from Howes Percival, Corinna Fletcher from Lotus, Mel Holl from KLM,Andy Almond from Langham Recruitment, Esther Cornell from Cambridge Rapid and Elaine Woodrow of Lintott Control Systems. However, we are looking for one or two more members to help drive this forward: please let us know if you want to join the team.

We need to move fast but will hold larger open meetings to share progress with the community and gather feedback. At this stage, nothing is set in stone. We want this to be as flexible as possible and for businesses to shape it, so it works for them. We remain open to ideas and suggestions – and understand the need to be adaptable in this rapidly changing environment.

A pyramid of options

We have various options when developing the TSP. However, we need to move fast so some of these will be long-term ambitions rather than part of the MVP. It could be a simple redeployment platform, or a more sophisticated secondment management platform (either ad-hoc or structured). Ultimately, it could operate as a strategic TSP, however that requires a high degree of trust and collaboration between companies (this works well in Germany and the Netherlands).

At its simplest, our aim is to help businesses avoid making redundancies (with all the financial and personal costs they entail). Once a business has closed, it is hard to restart and rebuild. We want to help businesses become more agile so they survive and thrive.

The basic TSP idea is to help businesses reduce the payroll burden without losing key members of staff. The more sophisticated options, such as structured secondment and strategic talent sharing, require a higher level of thinking and collaboration between businesses. However, these might also enable businesses to attract people when they can only offer them part time or limited project work – rather than forcing them to choose an all or nothing approach to recruitment and retention.

Some colleges in the region have already expressed interest in recruiting people with specialist skills part-time to help with teaching industry related courses. Participants in the previous meeting also saw the TSP as a good way of supporting young people, particularly apprentices, by giving them wider experience and depth of knowledge, so helping them strengthen their employment resilience and build their CV.

Confidentiality and competition issues

We will obviously work to prevent poaching by having a strict code of conduct and encouraging self-regulation. The working group is looking at how this will work and will propose a detailed approach nearer launch. It will also consider the legal structure of the platform and potential tax issues.

Next steps

We need to get an MVP running as soon as possible. We won’t try to do everything – but we do want something that businesses will use. For the foreseeable future the TSP will be a B2B proposition, not a jobs board for individual employees.  This will make it easier to manage and ensure the conversation is between businesses, who will also be responsible to each other for working ethically.

The TSP is not trying to replace recruitment agencies or contract working. Our objective is to make the supply and demand for key skills visible to the sector and help with equitable match-making. That is why we will initially focus on a limited set of key skills to ensure the platform works.

Setting up an online portal is probably the easiest bit – the hardest bit will be ensuring sufficient demand and supply of skills, and efficient matching. Adoption will be critical to the MVP’s success. If businesses in the region don’t want it and don’t use it, it won’t survive.

We have looked at various existing technical solutions – but will probably need to build something bespoke to ensure flexibility. One size won’t fit all; we need to take account of the different needs and capabilities of individual businesses. However, this gives business in the region greater opportunity to feed in ideas for development. It also leaves open the possibility of extending this to other sectors if it proves successful.

This is likely to be an innovative project. We want to keep the platform development in Norfolk/Suffolk, to support the local economy. There is the potential (if this works) of white labelling it and selling the service to other regions – perhaps generating revenue for our region.

What do we want from the sector?

  • We need to know if this suggested MVP – simple skills matching for redeployment and secondment – will meet the needs of local business, now and in the future. Do people see it as a short term or long-term opportunity? Who has an immediate need either to supply skills or to source skills?
  • What would be the main barrier to your business using this? Is it the way it works, or the match of skills (have you mapped your needs), or is it to do with tax / legal / HR or confidentially issues? Do you know how you would communicate redeployment to employees so they feel happy and secure rather than feeling ignored or rejected?
  • What are the top three skills / capabilities you could use from or share with TSP companies?
  • While we are developing the MVP, we are keen to start work with businesses now. We are willing to match skills and resources manually for the time being, to prove the concept works. It will also help to have some early success stories so people can see how it works in practice.

Next meeting: Thursday, August 13. 3pm-4pm.

Any businesses wishing to find out more about the project, or who can offer some insights on the topics listed above, should contact James Williamson on jwilliamson@hethelinnovation.com.