UK Shipbuilding Skills Taskforce report published

UK Shipbuilding Skills Taskforce report
UK Shipbuilding Skills Taskforce report

The UK Shipbuilding Skills Taskforce report is introduced by Dr Paul Little CBE, Chair of the UK Shipbuilding Skills Taskforce.

As a seasoned mariner and career academic, and one who strongly advocates for both technological and professional education and higher skills, I was honoured to be appointed as Chair of the UK Shipbuilding Skills Taskforce.

Now, one year on, as the Taskforce enters its third phase, I am delighted to present our collective UK Shipbuilding Skills Taskforce Report.

The UK Shipbuilding Skills Taskforce report is a game-changing report from an expert Taskforce. It is not the summative output of a well-meaning committee dependent on corporate consultants. Instead, you will read in the following pages the result of a ‘for industry-by-industry’ national endeavour. It is the culmination of intense, weekly deliberations of focused workstreams and solution groups, distilled each month by an earnest Taskforce of shipbuilding and education experts, carefully chosen from all four nations of the UK and drawn from all parts of the UK shipbuilding sector.

In this foreword I want to pay particular tribute and to publicly thank all Taskforce members who gave so enthusiastically of their time, who injected new thinking to solve seemingly intractable problems and who by their collective purpose have energised a renaissance in UK shipbuilding across its constituent sectors including naval, leisure, heritage, workboat and
the wider supply chain. Certainly, my eyes were opened to a reinvigorated, more collaborative, more can-do industry, inherently proud of its illustrious past but ever more eager to forge a bold and more sustainable future for UK shipbuilding.

Our report chimes with the UK government’s Refresh of its 2017 National Shipbuilding Strategy which heralded a renewed ambition for naval procurement, and which sought to secure greater exports and more domestic contracts for UK shipbuilding. The 2022 National Shipbuilding Strategy Refresh reinforced the government’s ambition for the UK shipbuilding industry, not
least with £4bn of government investment into our shipyards and the UK supply chain, together with a clear expectation for greener vessels. Both helpfully highlighted the lynchpin importance of skills, and the implementation of the National Shipbuilding Strategy Refresh is well underway. The Taskforce was ever mindful of the skills required to deliver the 30-year crossgovernment shipbuilding pipeline of more than 150 new naval and civil vessels, as well as the additional pressures and opportunities for UK shipbuilding presented by AUKUS1.

We structured our work into three distinct phases, each taking approximately 6 months:
1. Discovery: to draw together evidence of the skills needs and barriers within the industry.
2. Prioritisation: to identify priority areas of action to address barriers and ensure skills needs are met into the future.
3. Engagement: to share our findings with our stakeholders and advocate for our recommendations and the support we request from government.

Undaunted by the enormity of the challenge, the Taskforce was inspired to be evidence-based and solution-focused. At every turn, we reached out to our networks to remind ourselves of the reality for current shipyards and the growing industrial and professional skills gaps in our existing workforce. In addition, by proactively visiting centres of excellence and innovation across the UK we gained cutting-edge insights and honed our emerging solutions. We sought advice from top educational and industry leaders and the spirit of openness and partnership reached out through our roundtable dialogues
to adjacent STEM and skills-hungry sectors. We were keen to avoid resolving our own unique shipbuilding skills challenges only to exacerbate similar challenges for our industry peers and so we made a particular point of connecting with skills leads in the related industries of nuclear, construction, rail, and aerospace. On our travels we met with the shipbuilding leaders of the future, meeting both further and higher education students. We subsequently resolved to further widen access pathways into our amazing industry for the many, not just the few, because UK shipbuilding in the 21st century is truly a high-skill, high-wage, ‘job-for-life’ industry.

Shipbuilding is on the cusp of a new era, very much restored to economic and government agendas. The shipbuilding sector is willing to invest in skills, in innovation and in infrastructure, seeking in return only a more consistent demand signal and lobbying for more favourable procurement regulations for UK shipyards.

Ultimately, I believe that skills gaps and skills shortages will persist and hold us all back unless and until we nationally embrace a skills economy with the same fervour with which we embraced a knowledge economy. Most stakeholders now agree that the faulty logic of boom and bust must be consigned to the past, and the shipbuilding sector is up for delivery and not

With a mindset of growth, 19 hugely talented Taskforce members dug deep and delivered time and time again. Our work was ably
supported by our Secretariat team, provided by the Department for Education and the National Shipbuilding Office, whose work was augmented by their Devolved Government counterparts. I am personally enormously grateful to the Secretariat and especially to each Taskforce member listed at the end of this report. The UK shipbuilding industry will forever be in their debt.

Download the full report: A Step Change in UK Shipbuilding Skills

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