The Employment & Skills Landscape for Manufacturing

Published: 10 June 2014

Berwick Partners recently partnered with the Engineering Employers Federation (EEF) bringing together Midlands business leaders to debate the Employment & Skills Landscape for Manufacturing. Attendees provided an excellent range of manufacturing perspectives with representation from the automotive, metal processing, food, consumer durables, building products and advanced materials sectors.

In the last decade the questions facing manufacturing typically centred around three issues - access to finance, regulatory burden and skills shortages. More recently, access to skilled workers has been highlighted as the biggest obstacle to the future success of the sector. The combination of retiring expertise coupled with the lack of sufficient numbers entering technical professions could lead to a shortfall of workers that tops one million people by 2020.

The current challenges faced by the room were varied with different levels of expertise required to run a successful operation. For some the issues were at unskilled/semi-skilled level with concern that staff numbers were not being fulfilled locally and a hardening in immigration policy would make it more difficult to alleviate this through migration.

There was a sense that considerable progress had been made to re-introduce the apprenticeship method of entering the workplace but that levels of education, particularly in English and Maths, were making the initial transition difficult. It was felt that in other Countries (notably Germany) an apprenticeship was seen as a coveted career entry point and that programmes of this nature needed to be promoted as a viable career path for successful students.

The availability of university leavers seemed to be of less concern for the group with the biggest issue expressed being finding experienced engineers with specialist skills who were further into their careers. This tallies with the much publicised gap in the skilled workforce due to under investment in people over the last twenty years and most of those present had roles that had remained unfilled for long periods.

The conclusion was generally that skills shortages were a risk but that there was much cause for optimism in British manufacturing and that industry would find a way to succeed, whether it was through people working for longer, automation, training, or attracting additional talent to the sector. As a specialist recruiter of technical engineering and leadership roles, Berwick Partners are well equipped to assist organisations fill crucial gaps in their senior succession planning.

David Thomas works within Berwick Partners Energy, Manufacturing and Infrastructure Practice, recruiting nationally for senior leaders in industrial businesses.

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