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About us
Developing talent
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Share Price 1342.50p change of 7.00p
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Developing talent


Ultra Electronics is a FTSE250 business with approximately 5,000 employees, approximately half of which are in the UK. This paper describes the company’s approach to developing a talent pipeline and taking an active role in addressing the forecast shortage of engineering skills.


Forecast skill shortages

The company recognises that there is a forecast shortage of engineers in the coming years and plays its part in developing a talent stream for the future. EngineeringUK reports on its website that engineering companies are projected to have 2.74 million job openings from 2010 – 2020, 1.86 million of which will need engineering skills. Of these, approximately 87,000 per year will require people with degree (including foundation, undergraduate and postgraduate) qualifications. Currently the UK produces only 46,000 engineering graduates each year. There will also be demand for around 69,000 people qualified at advanced apprenticeship or equivalent level each year. Yet only around 27,000 UK apprentices a year currently qualify at the appropriate level. We see similar forecast shortages in the US also.

Ultra does not see this as simply a problem for the Government to solve but one that also needs to be addressed by schools, universities, colleges, professional institutions and of course private companies.

Ultra’s approach

Ultra has a joined up approach which is actively supported by its UK businesses. This involves engaging with academic institutions ranging from schools to universities and with students from GCSE level upwards through to PhD level. The approach to these various groups is described in more detail below.


the numbers of young people studying GCSE physics as part of triple sciences and grow the numbers of students studying physics A level to match those studying maths


EngineeringUK has called for action in a number of areas including a challenge to double “the numbers of young people studying GCSE physics as part of triple sciences and grow the numbers of students studying physics A level to match those studying maths”.

Ultra engages with local schools near many of its businesses. Relationships with schools and sixth form colleges takes a variety of forms from work experience (over 40 students last year), longer work placements, visits as part of AS level courses, interview practice sessions, careers events and Ultra employees supporting both lessons and after school clubs. In Gloucestershire this month Ultra has run a week-long work experience project for four GCSE students. In Middlesex Ultra has worked closely with Greenford High School and during this period the school has reported an increase of approximately 50% in the number of students applying for engineering degrees at university. Ultra’s focus is mainly engineering but also includes other STEM subjects but also includes finance and commercial disciplines.


Ultra engages directly with students from 6th form onwards. We offer a number of Arkwright Scholarships each year and currently have 10 scholars. Ultra is recognised as a Major Sponsor of the scheme.

EngineeringUK also called for action in the area of careers advice. Specifically “support for teachers and careers advisors in delivering careers information to give them an understanding of the range of engineering career paths available, including vocational and technician, and the opportunity to experience a 21st century engineering workplace for themselves”. This is a particularly effective way of influencing the choice of young people because of the multiplier effect. Ultra has received strong support to run a one-day workshop for physics and science teachers with the aim of illustrating how physics and science is used in engineering companies and what engineering jobs look like. We plan to run our first workshop in the summer of 2015.


Apprenticeships are now back in fashion partly as a result of the forecast demand but also as it offers a constructive and robust career path. This is particularly the case for students who may not be best suited to university at that age or are reluctant to incur large student debts. EngineeringUK notes a need for “a big increase in the numbers of pre-19-year-olds students studying vocational level 3 qualifications in engineering and manufacturing technology….” Ultra has re-launched many of its apprenticeship schemes in recent years. We run apprenticeship schemes at most of our UK businesses and we currently have 46 apprentices in training.

There have also been a number of notable successes: this year one apprentice was a finalist in the West London Business Awards and received a commendation and another was ranked in the top eight in a World Skills competition at the NEC.


Universities and Colleges

To quote EngineeringUK once more “twice the number of engineering graduates is needed to meet the demand for future engineering graduates, physics teachers and engineering lecturers.”

At present we are generally able to find the graduates we need but recognise that we need to work hard to attract the right people who can thrive in our businesses. Ultra businesses are typically fairly small in size ranging from 100-300 employees. This provides excellent, rewarding opportunities for graduates to make a difference solving real-life problems for customers but we recognise may not be the first choice for some students. We therefore try to attract graduates who are suited to this environment as opposed to the large project organisations of some of the UK’s larger engineering companies. As well as traditional careers fairs we actively engage with lecturers and faculties during degree courses. This enables us to form relationships well before graduation. Ultra currently has 10 sponsored university students and we also provide a number of work placements as part of degree courses (16 in the last year). One former Ultra Arkwright Scholar has been sponsored through university and is expecting to graduate with a first class degree in 2015 when we hope he will join us in a full-time role.


After graduation we take both direct entry students as well as offering graduate training programmes. Education continues beyond first degree level also with sponsored students studying master programmes and we have also sponsored PhD students one of whom now works in one of our US businesses.


As well as our own efforts we work with the Engineering Employers Federation, CBI, EngineeringUK and STEMnet to support various talent initiatives. This mainly involves sharing good practice and ideas as well as helping to develop frameworks for solving the very serious forecast shortages.


There is a well-documented forecast shortage of engineers. Maintaining adequate skills is recognised as one of Ultra’s top 10 risks (see Annual Report & Accounts 2013) and is treated very seriously. By playing our part in developing talent we feel better placed to support both UK plc as well as our own talent pipeline. We remain fully committed to this agenda that is so vitally important to both us as a company and the country as a whole.


twice the number of engineering graduates is needed to meet the demand for future engineering graduates, physics teachers and engineering lecturers

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