In September 2018, the ABC’s hit documentary series Australian Story tracked ...
The GFG Foundation, established by Sanjeev and Nicola Gupta in early 2017, aims to address the skills gap in industries like engineering, metals and renewable energy by educating young people on the opportunities available and helping them to view careers in these fields more positively. Learn more about the gap and how we’re tackling the issue.
The Foundation’s story began in the UK, with the highly acclaimed Industrial Cadets programme, inspired by HRH The Prince of Wales and delivered by the Engineering Development Trust.
Since then, the GFG Foundation launched a school’s programme in Whyalla, South Australia where students work directly with GFG employees to gain direct work experience and develop their life-skills.
The Foundation has plans to expand its footprint through 2020 and beyond.
We caught up with Dr Claire Neilson, who leads the GFG Foundation in the UK and Jonny Samengo, who leads the GFG Foundation in Australia to hear about the skills gap and how we are taking it on.
How much of a skills gap is there in the engineering, metals and renewable energy industries?
CLAIRE NEILSON: If you look at trends in demand for skills, there’s a definite shift in a much greater need for expertise in areas such as technology, digital, engineering and science. And a recent report by Engineering UK examined the current supply of talent coming through the education pipeline. I It’s anticipated that there will be an annual shortfall of almost sixty-thousand engineering graduates and technicians to fill these core engineering roles. Principally, that’s what the foundation is looking to address. By trying to present a modern and sustainable perspective on industrial careers, to hopefully inspire our future generations.
JONNY SAMENGO: What really hit home to me, when I was visiting one of the GFG facilities in Western Sydney, and I was talking to them about the student programme, the possibility of us going into that market in the near future, and they actually even saying they’ve had jobs, really good, high-quality engineering jobs, advertised for not just months but on occasions years, and not had the right people to apply for those jobs, let alone get them. So that starkly illustrated to me the real realities of this skills gap in Sydney, which I know is reflected across the whole country.
Who is eligible to benefit from participating in the Foundation’s programmes?
CLAIRE: Any young person is eligible to benefit. But having said that, the Foundation in the UK and Australia does tend to focus on the communities in which the GFG Alliance has a significant presence. So, it’s in those communities that we’re really looking to have a big impact.
How do the Foundation’s programmes operate in Australia?
JONNY: Really, we had a fantastic opportunity, because the Foundation in the UK had been already working with Industrial Cadets with a programme which was already set up, which we bought into. And very importantly, Industrial Cadets was started by the Prince of Wales, so we really wanted to work with Prince’s Trust here. And as it happened, they’ve got a programme called Achieve, which is all about life skills and all about enterprise skills and getting young people to be confident and ready for work and to understand the world around them.
And that was absolutely what we needed to do, and we really identified that from the pilot programme we ran last year. We also have a partnership with the CSIRO, and they are delivering the STEM-side of the component. So between those two partnerships, we can deliver the bespoke programme, which is the one that Sanjeev really had in his mind from the early days of when we first set up here.
How is the Foundation run in the UK?
CLAIRE: We’ve been working with an organisation called EDT. They’re an educational charity, and they’ve been the key partner for the Foundation in the UK, over the last three years. And, during that time, we’ve supported over five thousand young people, through various levels of the Industrial Cadet programme, which was indeed established and set up a few years ago by the Prince of Wales. In the Newport area, in South Wales, the Foundation has worked with Rewise Learning, and that’s been with young people, both in school but also disengaged young people in pupil referral units. The Foundation also funds a variety of different scholarships, both with universities, but also other organisations, such as the Arkwright scholarship programme as well.
What type of people work with the Foundation as mentors?
JONNY: What we’ve tried to do this year is expand beyond those specifically involved in the STEM area. And what we’re really after, broadening this in the future as well, we want to have equality between men and women, we really want to have a broad spectrum of people from various disciplines – They could be in HR, they could be in mining, they could be in engineering, they could be in support staff, they could be in management, they could be in any area. Because anybody who really cares about the young people in the area and helping them to achieve their future aims in the local area, they’re the people we want. So, their qualifications are less important, it’s more about their belief in young people and helping them be their best.
How can people find out more about the Foundation?
CLAIRE: I’d suggest that you head to the Global GFG Foundation website, which is gfgfoundation.org, and from there you will see contact details, you’ll have links to the social media platforms, so that’s a great way of finding out a little bit more about what the Foundation does, but also how you can get involved. So please do contact us, there are lots of exciting things that you can get involved in, and we’d love to hear from you.