The manufacturing industry has always been a vital component of the economy, providing millions of jobs and contributing significantly to the GDP. However, in recent years, there has been a growing concern about the skills gap in the manufacturing sector. The skills gap refers to the mismatch between the skills required for a particular job and the skills possessed by the available workforce.
Research from ONS (2023) shows there are currently 95,000 vacancies in the UK manufacturing industry, costing our economy around £14bn of output, compounded by a global shortage of engineering skills. Yet in the UK with a populous of 50/50 men to women; only 15% of the sector are female – which suggests the sector continues to be unable to attract unrepresented groups to consider a career.
The skills gap is a significant challenge in the manufacturing industry as it leads to unfilled positions, reduced productivity, and increased costs. The traditional approach to addressing the skills gap has been through education and training programs that aim to provide workers with the necessary skills. However, this approach may not be enough to solve the problem in the long run, as the demand for specific skills may change quickly, and the traditional education system may not keep pace with these changes.
To address the skills gap in manufacturing, we need to start thinking outside the box and look towards non-conventional ways of solving the employment conundrum. Made in Group members Tom Harris from OGL, Alex Podesta from Central Fasteners, Jo Munns from Ductec, Andrew Healey from The Sterlingham Company, Colin Nahor from Hayley Group, Jake White from Howcroft Group, James Grant from Powdertech and Georgia Hendry from Penta Pattern & Model met to discuss how manufacturers can think outside of the box on solving this issue; most it seemed are launching or progressing apprenticeship programmes but it won’t solve the short term gaps in roles.
The overall resounding theme was to accept there is “no such thing as a perfect candidate” – where manufacturers found they looked to hire around attitude over aptitude, with the hope to hone and mould skills internally around people with good basic characteristics with the help of training and coaching.
Here are a few ideas to consider from the breakout:
Collaboration between industry and academia: Manufacturing companies should partner with universities and vocational schools to create training programs that align with the specific needs of the industry. These programs can be designed to provide students with hands-on experience and practical skills that are in demand in the industry.
Automation and Robotics: The use of automation and robotics is becoming increasingly popular in the manufacturing industry. While some may fear that this will lead to job losses, it can also create new opportunities for workers who have the skills to operate and maintain these machines. Companies can invest in upskilling their current workforce to work alongside robots, creating a hybrid workforce that combines human skills with machine precision.
On-the-job training: Another way to address the skills gap is through on-the-job training. This can be done through apprenticeship programs, where workers learn while they work, and their skills are evaluated and improved over time. This approach can be particularly effective for technical jobs that require hands-on experience.
Embracing diversity and inclusion: The manufacturing industry has traditionally been male-dominated, but this is changing. Companies that embrace diversity and inclusion can tap into a broader pool of talent and skills. Encouraging women, minorities, and people with disabilities to pursue careers in manufacturing can help address the skills gap while creating a more diverse and inclusive workforce.
In conclusion, the skills gap in manufacturing is a significant challenge that requires innovative solutions. By collaborating with academia, investing in automation and robotics, providing on-the-job training, and embracing diversity and inclusion, we can move towards non-conventional ways of solving the employment conundrum. These solutions can help close the skills gap, improve productivity, and create new opportunities for workers in the manufacturing industry.