Signs of a Perfect Storm Ahead...

Aug 21, 2020 • FeaturesAgeing Workforce CrisisRecruitmentManaging the Mobile Workforce

There is a Tsunami of youth unemployment awaiting us at a time when we face a crisis of an ageing workforce. Surely it is time to join the dots before it is too late writes Mark Homer...

The world has never been more unpredictable, such a statement invites a variety of responses that ranges from complete agreement to denial or a more middle of the road response; possibly augmenting the discussion with words of caution or even scepticism. My own view is the world has always been unstable and unpredictable, but I do think we are heading into uncharted waters.

I suspect the majority of Service Leaders would agree that increased economic pressure, social compliance and even more operational uncertainty is ahead.

Furthermore, this uncertainty in itself is more than likely to have the greatest impact on our futures, our service industry and especially the way we work. Throughout this COVID crisis a large number of our field service colleagues have been quietly continuing to supply service and continued to maintain critical equipment to ensure the continuity of availability and supply.

Many have willingly accepted a greater personal risk to themselves going about this essential work given the potential infection risks they continue to face. We should all take the time to thank, acknowledge and appreciate their amazing contribution throughout this crisis and continue to celebrate what an interesting career it is to be in the service industry. This is exactly the time to promote just how critical the service industry is to our modern society.


"During this crisis, I have listened to many service leaders describing how they are deferring more routine maintenance and preventative work. Consequently, increasing their work backlog to record levels, thus increasing future demand..."

- Mark Homer. 


However, under the surface brews the swirling currents and early signs of a storm, a skills shortage. For the last few years I have been commentating on the rise of the Service Gig economy, the increased use of third party labour and the increasing reliance on third party contracting firms to help Service leaders smooth the peaks and valleys of fluctuating service demand.

I have been to many conferences where presenters have warned of the potential for increased widespread industry skill fade; largely due to our baby boomer generation now retiring from the global pool of available technicians and allied service trades. The continued trend to also sweat capital assets and eke out just a few more years of operational asset life before eventually total failure, parts obsolescence, lack of knowledge in the field force to service such assets and available options for final asset replacement.

Also, during this crisis, I have listened to many service leaders describing how they are deferring more routine maintenance and preventative work. Consequently, increasing their work backlog to record levels, thus increasing future demand.

I was really struck by an article in the Sunday Times by Kenneth Baker last week. Lord Baker is chairman of the Baker Dearing Educational Trust and a former UK Government Education secretary; he warns of a youth unemployment tsunami. Citing that sadly many apprenticeships that were approved this year have already been cancelled by companies, including Bentley, JCB, Netflix, Rolls-Royce and Warner Brothers.

More cancellations will follow. He makes the call for more technical training and technical skills development, calling on the UK Prime Minister, Chancellor and current Education Secretary to make changes that facilitate more courses to be available and that training is better than unemployment. He illustrates how the Government might fund this change.

As a service industry we are in desperate need of that new talent. Now is the time for us to all get involved with schemes that encourage people to join our industry.

To come together to promote the range of interesting and rewarding careers that will in turn help address both the skill fade and skill shortage that we will all likely face in coming years.

Let’s start promoting our industry, recruiting new talent and in the words of Lord Baker to train, train, train.

Mark Homer is an independent commentator, who specialises in Digital Transformation within the Field Service Industry.