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Reinventing the Manufacturing Workforce

Reinventing the Manufacturing Workforce
our research shows that the UK was outperformed in management practices by the USA, Germany and France

EEF, the manufacturing organisation – now rebranded Make UK – has urged manufacturers, government and business organisations to focus on the existing workforce in tackling future challenges.

Its Reinventing the Manufacturing Workforce report claims the UK’s manufacturing sector is facing some of the most turbulent years for decades in the shape of Brexit, digitalisation, automation, artificial intelligence and the emergence of new markets.

The report takes a critical look at the challenges manufacturers will face and what they need to do to prepare for these challenges. It points to the need for manufacturers to raise their game in the face of poor leadership and management skills, through the digital revolution and onwards to seemingly omnipresent UK skills shortages.

Welcoming the report Sharing in Growth CEO Andy Page said: “Like our colleagues at Make UK, we recognise the need to invest in the future and to encourage young people and more women into STEM careers. That’s why we were founder signatories to the Women in Aviation and Aerospace Charter.

“However, working on the pipeline will take too long, we need to upskill the current workforce to increase productivity and competitiveness so that UK PLC wins more business and can afford to invest in automation and digitalisation. This is the sort of virtuous cycle created by Sharing in Growth.”

The report identifies three major challenges facing manufacturing and engineering organisations:

  • Stagnant productivity caused by underinvestment in capital and lower levels of leadership and management capability.
  • The adoption of digital technologies and techniques which faces a skills barrier.
  • A skills shortage with a reducing talent pool and a mismatch between what employers need and what’s being delivered.
Demographics of the manufacturing workforce compared to the UK labour
Demographics of the manufacturing workforce compared to the UK labour

Said the report: “..our research shows the that UK was outperformed in management practices by the USA, Germany and France. This matters because investing in training to raise the skills of the workforce lifts productivity; it improves the human capital of a company and enables employees to use capital and equipment more effectively, thereby boosting output.

“With a poor start on the skills ladder, too many UK workers miss out on vital technical skills and do not experience a world of continuous skills improvement. Furthermore, employers face high barriers to deliver training, barriers that are unheard of among the UK’s global competitors.

“Reinventing the manufacturing workforce by building agile workforces and workplaces is challenging, but many manufacturers are already taking action. The type of action being taken by companies includes widening their talent pool, retraining existing employees and evolving the way they engage with employees. “

The report recommends:

  • Workforce planning
  • Workforce engagement and changing the way employees work
  • Changing recruitment practices
  • Investing in automation
  • Offering agile ways of working

And calls for the following actions:

  • The National Retraining Scheme must prioritise workers with existing transferable skills who will be primed to adapt to the digital technologies of the future in sectors.
  • The Apprenticeship Levy must be reformed to face the future challenges of digitalisation and Al.
  • Cultural barriers in workplaces resisting change need to be tackled from the top.
  • Agile working needs to be accompanied by agile learning, with lifelong learning and upskilling omnipresent in every business.
  • Manufacturers should expand the talent pool from which they recruit.
  • Skills funding should be remapped to encourage employers to adopt agile and diverse working policies and practices.