A lack of business and management skills is not the only thing holding back the technology and facilities market, argues Will Strauss.

Skillset will publish, in the next few days, a piece of research into the needs of the facilities market. It will reveal a lack of business and management skills amongst many companies.

And quite right too. Lots of facilities do lack those things. But the headline got me thinking. Surely there is a bigger problem on the horizon, one that doesn't have a short term fix: the industry's lack of technical skills.

In a previous incarnation I worked on an industry jobs website and engineering adverts got pitifully low numbers of responses.

We have some of the best engineers in the world in this country but we simply don't have enough of them to go round. And those that we do have are getting old and not being replaced. The kids are not going the degree courses as they are not seen as ‘cool' and people that want to ‘get into telly' do media ones. Some of which completely ignore the role of technology.

Holding hands

Decent engineers, technical staff and IT support are worth their weight in gold whether you run a broadcaster, a manufacturer or an OB firm.

Customers (and by that I mean producers) are crying out to have their hands held when it comes to technology. One of the many reasons a producer will choose a particular service company is their ability to (apologies in advance for the management speak) deal with technical problems and ‘put out fires'. To do that requires engineering, engineers and engineering skill.

But it's not just within broadcasting that there is a shortage of engineers and technical staff. There is a dearth across all industry in this country.

70% of engineering and technology companies in the UK are struggling to recruit experienced of mid-career level staff apparently. Robin McGill, chief exec of the Institute of Engineering and Technology, says: “The difficulty in recruiting experienced staff has the potential to hinder or stifle growth and is a problem that cannot be easily or quickly addressed.”

He thinks companies need to invest in the continued professional development of their staff. And he's right. But men, woman and children also need to be encouraged to go into technical disciplines in the first place.

If I was a young person who wanted to work in TV right now, I wouldn't bother with a media degree. I would plump for something technical. Or I'd pick a media course with lots of technology modules. I reckon I would be infinitely more employable.

Engineering trade

Now, I haven't seen the final version of the Skillset research but I'm sure that the shortage of people with technical skills within the facilities market will get a mention. After all, the research was conducted by Hugh Waters, a very nice chap who once ran Molinare and is, ostensibly, an engineer by trade.

I'm sure it'll come up because there is a huge a thirst for technology know-how and support. Not least from the content creators. Any future engineering shortages will affect them too.

On that same theme, just look at the conference programme for Broadcast Live and Video Forum this week. There is a session about production companies doing their own post production. DIY facilities if you like.

It must look an attractive option. But it is not the route for everyone. One head of production from a seriously big indie that I spoke to recently has flogged his in-house facility to the local post house.

When his producers used it, they were under the impression that they were getting a raw deal - ‘It's not like Soho' they cried. And he didn't see the benefit of spending millions of pounds providing upgrades, technical staff and engineering support for the damn thing.

So, anyone thinking about going along to that session - or any other for that matter - that wants to set up a technology service operation and is hoping to recruit technical staff easily may have to think again. It might be trickier than you think.

And the sooner we, as an industry, realise this and start to cajole and persuade people that being able to change the heads on a digi machine is important, the better.

Is Will talking cobblers? Or does he have a point? Have your say below.