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The Inconvenient Truth of Manufacturing Skill Shortages

JH.-2.jpgAs the need for businesses to innovate intensifies, skills gaps are being indentified across a plethora of sectors. Most recently, the Global Manufacturing Festival saw speakers discuss how plugging the manufacturing skills gap is a critical factor to achieving growth in the industry.

The event highlighted that up to 2 million additional people will be required for the UK Manufacturing sector over the next 10 years. A phenomenal figure by any standards! But exactly how can this be addressed?

Our own Manufacturing Success survey established talent retention and attraction as obstacles that manufacturers must overcome. Out of 200 manufacturers surveyed, retaining existing employees (46%) and recruiting for skills that companies need in the future (46%) are both priorities for organisations in the year ahead.

The Markit/CIPS Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) rose to 49.8 in April from an upwardly revised 48.6 in March, putting the sector the closest
it’s been to the growth – contraction border. Despite encouraging reports highlighting growth in April, there is still an overarching concern that the industry will struggle to support sustained growth without obtaining (and retaining) qualified employees.

Some believe that skill shortages (in any industry) are the result of shortfall mistakes, but the inconvenient truth for many businesses is that, these areas have been neglected and can have long-lasting consequences on an organisation’s ability to grow.

Skills shortages in R&D, production and support services are broadly seen as having the biggest impact on the ability for companies to grow. These are the very skills that characterise the manufacturing sector, the shortage, of which will intensify as the talent pipeline continues to dwindle.

Apprenticeship programmes have always formed a solid basis for the manufacturing sector, and their role and benefits are as important as ever.  Eight out of ten respondents in the Manufacturing Success survey cited apprenticeships as presenting a valuable solution to filling the skills gaps. However, as with all apprenticeship initiatives, the need to fund and organise successful programmes involves careful planning and organisation.

What do you think? Is there another solution to the shortage of skills, in manufacturing and other industries?

John Hammann, Manufacturing Industry Principal, SAP UKI

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