Zoë Tanner, MD of SNG Publishing – the home of the HIP, SPARKS and Concept Hair skills competitions – reveals why she believes more can be done to address the skills crisis, and why engaging with young people can bring huge benefits to businesses.
Q: Tell us a bit about the HIP (plumbing) and SPARKS (electrical) competitions. Why have they been so successful?
A: The success of the competitions is due to our longstanding relationships with the UK construction colleges, in addition to the incredible support we receive from the industry. The plumbing and electrical industries have been keen to stand together with us to support a platform to nurture and showcase the up-and-coming talent of our future industry professionals.
The HIP Learner of the Year competition was launched 15 years ago and due to its rapid success, the SPARKS Learner of the Year competition followed one year later, in 2010. Learner of the Year and Female Skills are both live installation competitions designed to reflect real-life scenarios that learners are likely to come across at work. The competitions test the learners' skills, help build confidence, and allow them to have some fun along the way, while they meet their peers and network with the wider trade community.
Q: What has your experience running these competitions taught you about engaging with young people?
A: Attending the competitions and meeting the learners and their lecturers is one of my favourite parts of my role. I find the learners to be innovative and adaptable. Despite looking nervous at the start of the day they quickly relax and embrace the competition challenge. It is also apparent watching the competitors interact with the judges and the sponsors how much they value authenticity – they are not afraid to challenge longstanding ideas and table their questions and ideas with experienced industry professionals.
Q: In your view, what more could be done to encourage young people into trades?
A: We need more promotion of the trades as a viable and rewarding career path. Many young people are not aware of the opportunities available in the trades, or they have negative perceptions of these jobs. Promoting trade career paths through education and through work-based learning opportunities can help to change perceptions and encourage more young people to consider the trades as a rewarding career option with progression opportunities.
Partnering with schools, colleges, and other educational institutions can help to promote trades as a career option and provide future trade professionals with access to training and skills development opportunities. The trades are also becoming increasingly digital and technology-driven. Embracing technology and incorporating this into the training can help to make these jobs more appealing to tech-savvy learners.
Q: What is your perspective on the skills gap crisis and what can be done to address it?
A: The skills gap crisis is a significant concern that needs to be addressed urgently. The shortage of skilled workers will impact industry growth and professional standards as well as drive up labour costs due to the lack of qualified workers. I believe that there needs to be a concerted effort from all stakeholders, including industry employers, educational institutions, industry associations and the Government to attract more people into the trades and provide them with the necessary training and apprenticeships. This could involve creating more opportunities for work-based learning, investing in training and education programs, and promoting the industry as an attractive and rewarding career path.
Q: How could kitchen and bathrooms retail and installation businesses benefit from engaging more with young people?
A: Engaging with young people can bring a range of benefits to kitchen and bathroom retail and installation businesses, including fresh perspectives and innovative ideas that can help businesses adapt to changing consumer preferences and market trends, an employee talent pipeline for the future, valuable insights into new technology and digital platforms to maximise customer engagement, and contributing to the development of the next generation of skilled workers in the industry.