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Is the field service industry at risk from ageing populations?

Oct 23 • Features, Future of FIeld Service • 3503 Views • Comments Off on Is the field service industry at risk from ageing populations?

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Looking to the future is not just about which technology you should be applying to your mobile workforce to ensure that you are beating productivity level KPIs, it is also about looking at how you can ensure sustained growth within the business.

A key part of this is of course staffing.

However, for many companies an ageing workforce could prove to be a significant hurdle to not only growing their business but also to simply maintaining their existing size and standards. One such company that is attempting to tackle the issue before it becomes irreversible is Siemens.

“We have a habit of looking a few years ahead and we are looking at where will we be in 2020” states Graeme Coyne, Business Development Manager, Siemens Customer Services

“Our particular department is about 200 people in the UK. Based on the growth of our department over the last few years, we believe that by 2020 we will need around 250 people.” on to Coyne explains before going highlight the gravity of the situation that the manufacturing giant faced.

“We had a problem. We have 200 employees now and we needed 250 in six years time but we estimated we were going to lose about 100 people through retirement by then also”

“We’ve got an ageing population. I’ve personally been in Siemens for 30 years; the oldest person in our service organisation is 75 years old. There is a big bulge of people who are aged between 45 and 55 and we are expecting many of them to go fairly soon.”

Siemens are certainly not alone in facing this issue. Indeed it is a problem mirrored in many other companies in many other verticals. So what can be done to resolve the problem and build a sustainable workforce for the future?

The idea of these technology centres is that on the one side you’ve got academia producing skilled engineers of many different types and on the other side you’ve got some very good manufacturers. Sometimes in between we lose things and the idea is that these catapult centres are sat there to help avoid this”

Well of course the first thing to do is to look to engage with the next generation, something that Siemens have done through both traditional and non-traditional routes.

“We’ve gone out to the universities to sponsor students, we’ve got about 1,500 sponsors throughout the UK – it something we have to do.” Begins Coyne. However, Siemens are not just targeting graduates, they have an apprenticeship scheme that means they won’t miss out on those bright young minds that for whatever reason don’t see academia as the right path to choose.

“The other thing that we have done is that we have got 400 apprentices in the UK.” Coyne continues,  “I am told this is not enough. We were talking about taking people from the age of 13, 14 15 – it is essential. So we are trying to do our bit, we’re investing a lot of time and effort into it and it is starting to show results.”

However, the Siemens recruitment machine is far more sophisticated than just supporting and developing training programs.

“We think we are doing an OK job recruiting people” Coyne admits, “What we have been doing is we have been investing in manufacturing technology centres. These are important, as they are specialist areas which are invested in by academia, by manufacturers and by government.”

These technology centres are key to solving both the Siemens problem and that of the wider industry. By sitting in between the gap between business and academia they allow smart young minds to connect with industry without the pressure that may come from a more formal environment.

As Coyne explains “The idea of these technology centres is that on the one side you’ve got academia producing skilled engineers of many different types and on the other side you’ve got some very good manufacturers. Sometimes in between we lose things and the idea is that these catapult centres are sat there to help avoid this”

However, these centres play a deeper role in the recruitment and retention of the next generation of field engineers. They are also important to ensure that that next generation of field engineers are ready for the next generation of technology as well.

“All of our new technology is moving on, we are moving to industry 4.0.” Coyne begins “basically all the things we are trying to do is so we can get engineers to fit where this next wave of manufacturing technology is going to be”

This approach is commendably, but necessarily long sighted.

“We are talking about something that is not yet ready. It’s going to be ready in maybe 20 years but parts of it are already there.” However, the manufacturing technology centres, being co-funded by industry, education and state provide opportunities for the next generation of field engineers to start understanding and utilising tomorrows tools today.

This has two-fold importance. It ensures you are not only attracting the best minds but also that they are being readily prepared for the future.

“We need engineers that are fresh faced, fresh minds that know all about the current technology,” states Coyne. “But I’ve been out and talked to some of our graduates and asked what do you want “they said they want experience, they want to do as much as possible, learn as many skills as possible and get trained so that they can do many different things”

Getting this balance between what you and your future employees want is not an easy road but it is companies like Siemens who are investing in the future heavily today that will almost certainly be set to reap the rewards tomorrow.

 

 

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