Solvay Dental 360’s Phillip Silver discusses “The skills gap challenge in dental technology”
The UK needs to engage a new pool of talent to address a significant skills shortage in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) sectors. Whilst the government have invested heavily and made great efforts to offer a variety of entry routes to careers requiring STEM skills, these industries still remain in crisis. Furthermore, as technology moves on and roles become more varied, the overall situation is becoming worse and currently, there are a considerable number of posts requiring a wide range of skill-sets, waiting to be filled.
There is a substantial skills shortage in the dental technology arena in particular. A high percentage of dental technicians are approaching retirement age and over the last few years, a marked reduction in the number of registered dental technicians in the UK has been identified.
As a result, laboratories could face increased operating costs with heavier workloads for trained staff, and could also mean that meeting quality standards or introducing new production developments would be challenging. Indeed, there is a pressing demand for skilled dental technicians and a strategy must be found to encourage more people into the dental laboratory industry.
To a certain extent work-based apprenticeship schemes are helping to move industry forward. Similarly, some companies are also taking the initiative to fill skills gaps by creating their very own academies and learning institutions. Not only does this open up opportunities for individuals whose circumstances may not normally have allowed them to go into higher education, but also they can begin their careers without student debt. Furthermore, the company is able to offer a unique package to employees while growing its own highly skilled and loyal workforce, nurtured in their specific working practices.
As technology and developments move on so rapidly within the industry, laboratories also need a system to support career development and expand knowledge and skills of the current workforce. This allows the business to remain up-to-date with technical and clinical developments, to offer a comprehensive range of products and services and to retain well-trained dedicated employees.
One of the ways this can be implemented is by taking advantage of short courses or training opportunities available to dental technicians. These are often provided by industry leaders in software, products or materials and require minimal investment but build and advance the knowledge, skills and capabilities of the laboratory. Technicians can learn new techniques and apply innovative solutions, which can help to streamline working practices and offer a larger range of products and alternatives to clients and patients.
For example, Solvay Dental 360 is committed to revolutionising the dentistry market with an innovative high performance polymer called Ultaire AKP. This is a custom-created material for fabricating removable partial denture (RPD) frames, which is biocompatible, lightweight and metal free.
The Solvay Dental 360 University provides laboratory training and dental technicians can expand their skills. Equally, by incorporating Ultaire AKP, laboratories can both accelerate their digital workflow and offer dentists and patients a cutting-edge, new alternative to metal RPDs.
Dental laboratories need to find ways to develop the skills they need to keep pace with this rapidly evolving industry. However, with the support of technical experts and industry specific learning opportunities there is an exciting, progressive future ahead.
Phillip Silver is the UK Country Manager and Consultant at Solvay Dental 360. He is a specialist in medical technologies and materials with over two decades of experience in both implantable and non-implantable devices.
For more information about Solvay Dental 360, Ultaire AKP and Dentivera milling discs, go to www.solvaydental360.com