WISE Dynamic Regions CXO shines the spotlight on members’ regional projects

WISE’s Dynamic Regions CXO roundtable evolved an important industry conversation. Regional inequality has been a long-term concern for the UK, and as a UK-focused organisation, it has been an area of increasing interest to WISE.

The roundtable, which featured high-profile speakers such as GCHQ’s Paul Kilworth, James Holland from Collins Aerospace and Lydia Fairman from Network Rail, moved the conversation forward with some excellent insights.

GCHQ’s Paul Kilworth provided an interesting case study of the division’s work in Manchester. He said that the organisation was aware that it didn’t want to drain the region of STEM talent and as such is liaising closely with academia to bolster the pipeline“If you just take from that talent pool, you very rapidly lose your licence to operate and become seen as somebody who is providing some jobs, but is fundamentally taking more than it is giving to the community. So, we learned quite rapidly, we needed to work with partners to develop and grow a talent pipeline, the whole sector we cared about, we couldn’t just be consuming what was already there.”

“We went in, fully intending to focus on recruiting female and ethnic minority leaders, where you’d have read many surveys where they were underrepresented. And in practice, we found the best way of approaching that was to work on all aspects of diversity and focus on some of the social mobility issues, some of the communities, which had far less privilege than others. And really tackle some of those by taking a much more local approach.”

I’m sure his statement that the focus was on ‘local places and global networks,’ will have resonated with other attendees. As chief editor for WISE, I presented the preliminary findings of our upcoming research paper, ‘Supporting Our Regions.’ These findings (national statistics) are interesting, with Scotland outperforming other nations to the end of Dec 2021 overall – women made up 30.4% of the total Core-STEM workforce in the nation, compared with 29.3% in Northern Ireland, and 26.5% in England. Ireland led the other nations in engineering with women making up 18.1% compared with Scotland’s 14.0% and Wales’s 10.9%. Going forward our work will examine how national schemes and infrastructure have contributed to these stats.

The presentations from James Holland from Collins Aerospace and Lydia Fairman from Network Rail also provided an in-depth look into how organisations have built relationships with local communities to help develop the STEM workforce. You will be able to view their slides in the members’ section of our website shortly.

James Holland from Collins Aerospace went into some detail about the organisation’s social responsibility during his presentation.

“We’re also proud of our corporate social responsibility programme. That includes giving our people time each year to participate and make a difference, we can also benchmark our progress with nationally recognised certification programmes such as ISO 26,000, or B Corp.

“STEM is important to us. We engage with young people to inspire them about the sector and Collins Aerospace. We see it as a great opportunity to build a potential pipeline of talent for our future requirement and want to continue to be involved with local communities by supporting local causes, engaging in local government programmes and by doing so, increase our brand recognition so that local people recognise it. Encouraging more local employment in the future.”

Network Rails Lydia Fairman followed Paul and James, moving the conversation on to challenges and reskilling the existing workforce.

“We’re introducing new technologies. So, our workforce needs to adapt, and they need to be agile.”

“We’ve got the same challenge as everybody else and 90% of the UK workforce as a whole is going to have to be retrained in some way or another. So, we’re reacting to that by reskilling the workforce. We want to keep that business knowledge and the passion that people have for working, whilst also reducing the costs of recruiting new people into the organisation and getting them up to speed. Reskilling is also about improving people’s morale as it is shown to increase levels of employee engagement.”

“One of the things that’s been important to me throughout this is that it’s inclusive and open to anybody. And as a team, when we’re running this pilot, we don’t have preconceptions as to who might be interested in reskilling, we don’t want to make judgments on that. So, we wanted to make sure that it’s open, available, and well communicated.”

As WISE CEO Kay Hussain explained, it is clear there is much good work being done by businesses, policy makers and academia, but that much of this is siloed. Over the coming months, WISE will work hard to help facilitate conversations with these players to ensure that members and other interested parties collaborate and share insights and best practices for the good of all.