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Shaping Skills for Jobs to support sustainable businesses and careers


The Government’s Skills for Jobs initiative is one of several positive initiatives for businesses and individuals as the country recovers from the impact of Covid and builds for the future.

With over 400 separate qualifications available for UK adults and, taken in partnership with the apprenticeship levy and T Levels, there’s a clear roadmap to begin to address the skills deficit in the UK.

But it could go further.

ABB is a leading global technology company that aims to energize the transformation of society and industry, to achieve a more productive, sustainable future.

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Customers come to us with their most important challenges and through collaboration, we push the boundaries of technology to find new ways of working that benefit not just our customers and partners, but society and the environment too. A goal which feels ever more critical in the year that the UK hosts the COP26 summit.

For us this means that a traditional product sales approach has evolved to focus on finding solutions. With this change the skillset needed in the workforce has evolved too. In fact, I would go as far as to say that our philosophy towards learning and required competencies has shifted dramatically.

Qualifications remain the bedrock within the workforce, but the skills we look for have broadened. For example, the traditional skills of an engineer are based upon problem solving and root-cause analysis.

Today the role has shifted; by utilising the latest technology and live data, we work with our customers to define their objectives and work back from there. If a customer wants to improve productivity and energy efficiency that is the destination, we build back from to offer a creative solution.

If you marry the environmental challenges industry must overcome with the exponential pace of technological change and the ever-increasing use of connected services and artificial intelligence, it’s easy to appreciate that the specific skills in use today will be significantly different in five-to-10 years’ time. 

We can’t necessarily predict how those skills will differ, but we can build a workforce that is prepared for continual evolution to support our current, and future customers.

Skills for Jobs is a fantastic starting point. However, if we are going to prepare for the future, one that puts sustainable industrial practices first and, includes a workforce that can adapt with technological advancements, we need to support individuals in developing a broader suite of adaptable skills.

Within ABB in the UK, our focus is on creating an environment that encourages lifelong learning, creativity and collaboration, along with the culture that supports it. In our development programmes the emphasis is on bringing together individuals from multiple disciplines to foster the sharing and application of knowledge.

We call it creating a learning ecosystem and it is designed to move away from the traditional siloed application of skills and instead harness the power of shared knowledge and experience to creatively find solutions for the betterment of industry and the environment.

It’s an acquired way of working and with the Skills for Jobs initiative there is an opportunity for the government to work with learning providers and employers in helping individuals develop these broad competencies in partnership with their chosen qualifications.

Together we can encourage a workforce which is prepared to adapt to the challenges of the future and help to build rich rewarding careers for individuals, support the economy and contribute to a more sustainable society.


Craig Prendergast is global division HR manager, motion system drives and country HR manager, UK at ABB