67% of manufacturers worried that skills shortage will affect their business

Published: 19 May 2017 By The Engineer

The UK manufacturing industry is calling on government to step up and do more to encourage young people to consider engineering as a career and, thereby, help to close the ongoing skills gap.

This is according to a new poll of over 600 industry professionals commissioned by engineering supply chain exhibition Subcon in association with The Engineer, which runs its annual conference alongside Subcon.


Key findings

  • 67 per cent of UK manufacturers are worried about the future availability of skilled staff for their business
  • 72 per cent don’t believe Government is doing enough to promote skills training
  • 83 per cent believe there are not enough young people working in UK manufacturing and engineering
  • 88 per cent claim engineering is a good career choice for young people
  • 90 per cent claim the industry would benefit from more young people working within it
  • Just 54 per cent currently train apprentices

When asked what industry and the Government can do to encourage more young people to consider manufacturing as a career, respondents singled out improved engineering education at school level, Investment in apprenticeship training, promotion of potential career progression and improved pay as factors that could help make a difference.

There was also a lukewarm response from respondents on government’s recent efforts to prioritise engineering skills: specifically through the introduction of the apprenticeship Levy, the £170 million investment in technology institutes and the introduction of T-Levels. Nearly three quarters of those taking part in the survey believe that government could do more, whilst 40 per cent of respondents to the didn’t know whether The Apprenticeship Levy (introduced on 6 April 2017) is a good thing.

Offering his own take on the solution to industry’s skills problem, Birmingham City University’s Prof Alan Pendry, who will be speaking at The Engineer conference said: “Apprenticeships and degree apprenticeships are an excellent opportunity for UK companies to grow the essential skills needed by our growing manufacturing industry and to take us into the fourth industrial revolution. If I were in Government and wanted to encourage more young people and women into engineering, I would get rid of ‘career politicians’ and replace the cabinet with engineers: 50 per cent male and 50 per cent female, educate school teachers as to what engineering and manufacturing in the 21st century is and promote positive action without the perceived fear of discrimination in the appointment of women to engineering posts.”

Another conference speaker, Sid Shaikh, Engineering R&D Manager at Ocado added: “If Government is to encourage more young people to work in the industry, we should introduce engineering qualifications earlier in the education process, create targeted promotion and incentives for women and young people to take the Engineering GCSE, and create a culture that is more welcoming to new starters that are keen to learn.”

The survey of more than 600 UK manufacturing professionals was carried out by Subcon and leading industry trade magazine The Engineer. Subcon is the UK’s premier manufacturing supply chain show, taking place 6-8 June 2017 at NEC, Birmingham. Visitors can register for a free pass at www.subconshow.co.uk.

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