Can companies be more short-sighted than short-staffed as employers?

In a three-way conversation with a trainer and engineering manager recently, he mentioned that two highly-valued tool-makers were due to retire. To commiserate is the first reaction as this valuable creating high precision jigs/fixtures and contextual problem solving isn’t replicable. The same member company, however, invests strategically in talent : up-skilling (via short courses in 3D software), with learning apprenticeships (including tool-making) and through development (nurturing design thinking). Our conversation was part-consultation on possible up-skilling their production staff to 3D design/print equipment parts. Insightfully, the Manager pin-pointed the need too for ‘unlearning” i.e. breaking a habit of ordering ‘like-for-like’ 2D-manufactured replacements. Thereby, their problem was also the seed of a bigger solution – one that utilised both human and capital resources better.

Skills shortages in quality and compliance?

As seen above, where one company may see as negative, another will switch thinking gear to create a positive. Democratising fundamental skills (like design) is a great talent strategy for many. With supply chain pressures, all need to do more with less. Stainability in resources and effort is a challenge but needed to ensure both compliance and reliability as a supplier. The “golden thread” of traceability ensures proactive ‘business continuity’ as regulations evolve without resort to a chasing new or specialist talent. For example, most small and medium sized companies do not need data scientists but all rely on ‘clean’ data and a ‘data-savvy’ workforce. The term used by learning professionals to describe the ability to analyse, interpret and extract value from data is “data literacy”. Talent and data strategies need to be aligned as together they can reduce risk.

Raising ‘data literacy’ levels

The reality is that all manufacturing and engineering enterprises, large and small, are now in the risk management business. Reporting obligations around environmental and other forms of sustainability/integrity place a burden of work but can also tap into hidden potential. Companies that develop workforces around risk and data literacy as ‘core competencies’ stand to gain, exponentially. A competency isn’t just about skills or ability to use a particular tool but relates to values and mindset e.g. a willingness to think ‘data-first’ when designing new processes.

‘Risk literacy’ means neither over- or underestimating threats i.e. measuring the risk proportionately. A risk=literate workforces adds value to data by contextualising it well, for example, balancing general rules (e.g. ‘do no harm’) with specific situations (e.g. serving a vulnerable customer) to personalise products well. Most importantly, both risk and data literate workforces takes ownership to ensure ‘clean’ data and, therefore, avoid invoking the most fundamental principle of all when it comes to decisions i.e “rubbish in, rubbish out”.

Support from the Engineering Skillnet

This Thursday, May 18th 2023, we hold a free lunch webinar on data literacy. Again, this will take the form of a three-way learning-full conversation, Our speakers will explain the concept of ‘clean data’, the role of statistics (as the science of risk) and how we can support better risk-based decisions through tapping into talent already in the workforce.

For example, many lead operators are capable with the right up-skilling and tools to improve their processes significantly. We ‘ll also tackle risk at a macro level with a risk strategist who will outline good tools to help businesses deal with uncertainty by regaining objectivity and perspective.

The Engineering Skillnet regularly runs free webinars and virtual workshops on cyber surveillance, sustainability and affordable as well as accessible training in relevant ISO standards. It’s not the case that only those companies planning to implement a particular standard should be risk-aware.

Come talk to us and explore our many bite-sized ‘on-demand’ workshops that boost workforce data-savviness e.g. in critical thinking and risk-based decision-making. We are also opening certified pathways in quality and in a way that also joins-the-dots well between technology and talent.

We are proud to support Ireland's Launch of the #EUYearOfSkills. Through the Skillnet Ireland ecosystem, we are #SpearheadingTalent development initiatives that enhance the competitiveness of Ireland’s businesses and workforce – including through better design thinking and data literacy.

Contact for more information or a consultation on your workforce development.