Launch of UK Shipbuilding Skills Taskforce report


Today as part of London International Shipping Week, the UK Shipbuilding Skills Taskforce has published its report ‘A Step Change in UK Shipbuilding Skills’ and a supporting toolkit for shipbuilding employers ‘How to Leverage UK Skills Systems’.

Dr Paul Little, Principal of City of Glasgow College and chair of the Taskforce, is launching the report on the Trinity House vessel Galatea during a speech to an audience of people from across the maritime and education sectors.

There are four key priorities set out in the report:
· To establish a new, sector-wide narrative for shipbuilding to promote it as a vibrant and inclusive sector;
· To help the sector engage more productively with the existing skills system, to leverage and maximise its use;
· To forecast the impact of technological change in the sector on skills; and
· To set up an industry-led skills delivery group to oversee and drive delivery of the recommendations, and to be a voice for skills for shipbuilding.

The Taskforce makes a number of recommendations linked to these priorities directed at employers, educators and governments across the UK. A key theme of the report is the importance of continued cooperation and communication between government, industry employers, trade unions and training and education providers. The Taskforce believes this cooperative approach will enable the skills system across all four nations to rapidly respond to changing employer requirements as technology advances, and grow the supply of STEM skills that the shipbuilding sector needs to succeed.

The Taskforce has also developed a toolkit to help employers, especially smaller businesses, engage with the skills system. This has been released today alongside the report. The toolkit is intended to raise employer awareness of how to use free and funded initiatives to promote shipbuilding and recruit or train skilled people.

Taskforce Chair, Honorary Captain Dr Paul Little CBE: “This is a game-changing report that is set to transform UK shipbuilding skills for the medium and longer term. Our report is a public call to action; to industry, education, and government, to act decisively to implement our recommendations.”

The Ministry of Defence published the National Shipbuilding Strategy (NSbS) refresh in March 2022, which set the vision for increased competitiveness and productivity across the national shipbuilding enterprise. It included a chapter on skills, which committed the Department for Education to launch the Taskforce in collaboration with the National Shipbuilding Office.

The Taskforce was established in July 2022 as an 18-month task and finish group, charged with building a picture of UK shipbuilding’s skills needs and making recommendations to resolve skills shortages, particularly those related to new and emerging technologies. Membership of the Taskforce is drawn from across the UK, including senior representatives from the shipbuilding sector, with expertise spanning shipbuilding employers, trade unions, key educators and academic researchers.

The Taskforce will continue working until December 2023, liaising with industry and educators to on its recommendations. The Government will publish a response to the report in the coming months.

Minister for Skills, Apprenticeships and Higher Education Robert Halfon said: “I welcome this report from the UK Shipbuilding Taskforce and thank the Chair, Honorary Captain Dr Paul Little CBE and all the members for their work to help us to develop a world-leading skills strategy that will boost training and job opportunities in the shipbuilding industry.

“The Taskforce’s report and recommendations will help make sure we can continue to develop the skilled workforce needed to ensure the industry goes from strength to strength, help more people climb the ladder of opportunity and support our economy to grow.

“We’re supporting young people to get into shipbuilding through a variety of routes. The Engineering and Manufacturing T Level provides a pathway into marine engineering, boatbuilding and welding. This can lead to an apprenticeship in many engineering specialisms including systems, mechanics, and robotics.”

Scottish Minister for Higher and Further Education Graeme Dey: said “I am pleased to note the publication today of the report of the Shipbuilding Skills Taskforce, to encourage a collaborative response across the sector with industry, our skills and education providers and regional economic partners.

“Shipbuilding and the marine sector are important to Scotland’s economy and to communities across the country, providing valued employment and exciting career opportunities. As we modernise manufacturing techniques and the drive to Net Zero, it is vital that we ensure that the Scottish workforce continues to hone the skills to enable the sector to deliver world class design, manufacture and servicing.”

Mike Brennan Permanent Secretary at Northern Ireland’s Department for the Economy said: “Northern Ireland has a long and illustrious history of shipbuilding and I welcome the taskforce report. The work of the taskforce highlights the importance of the skills agenda and collaboration between government, industry and the education sectors to support the shipbuilding industry. The shipbuilding sector provides significant economic and social benefits both locally and across the UK and we look forward to continuing to play our part with the Taskforce throughout the next phase of their work.”