Tackling skills shortage in the manufacturing industry

Posted on: October 10th, 2016

The struggle to recruit skilled workers is a recurring concern within the UK manufacturing industry, with an EEF report earlier this year revealing that three-quarters of manufacturers have struggled to recruit skilled workers in the last three years.

Industry analysis suggests that manufacturers are dealing with a lack of both quantity and quality when it comes to applicants, with not enough people applying for roles and job-seekers lacking the technical skills required to fill available vacancies.

The EEF report found an increased demand for skills across the board, with a particular focus on production-related technical skills and craft/technician skills, with demand varying, sometimes substantially, by sector. In February this year, the Automotive Council confirmed that there are up to 5,000 current vacancies in the industry, many including vehicle and component manufacturers, and the growth potential of the industry could be undermined by lack of new talent.

But what can the industry do to tackle this deficit?

  • Apprenticeships:
    Apprenticeships can provide employers with a cost effective and detailed way of training individuals in the crucial knowledge and skills required for a career in the industry. With an ageing workforce in manufacturing, apprenticeships are critical to the industry’s continued growth.
  • Funding employee training and encouraging development:
    By investing in your current employees and offering training, development and clear career progression, talent will be attracted and retained.
  • Flexible working opportunities:
    Recent research suggests that 70% of employers will offer flexible working by 2020 and some 21% of employees asked would accept lower pay if they were able to work fewer hours. Manufacturers can use flexible working arrangements to attract skilled employees who may otherwise be reluctant to enter the traditional working world.
  • Secondments and global recruitment:
    Offering secondments and transferring skilled employees globally, where possible, will both encourage ambitious individuals to the industry and may assist in meeting specific regional and national skills gaps.
  • Shake off historic perceptions:
    Manufacturers should continue to try and remove the outdated image of the manufacturing industry as low-paid and routine factory work. Use social media engagement, open days and competitions, for example, to inform individuals of the cutting-edge, exciting and innovative industry.
  • Engaging with schools, colleges and universities:
    Following on from the point above, manufacturing companies should engage with local schools, colleges and universities to excite and encourage young people to join the industry. The skills needs of the industry should be explained, so that young people can tailor their educational journey for the roles.
  • Engage with the government and get involved with lobbying:
    There are many who think that the government should do more to support our manufacturing industry. If you have a particular concern or suggestion affecting the sector, contact your local MP, write to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and/or join a sector organisation, such as the EEF, who often lobby and consult with the government on the manufacturing industry’s behalf. 

For further information, please contact our Manufacturing and Engineering legal specialist Hayley Bevis, Senior Associate Solicitor in our Corporate team on 023 9236 4321 or hayleybevis@coffinmew.co.uk.