What workforce challenges lie ahead for manufacturing?

What Workforce Challenges Lie Ahead for Manufacturing?
I recently read a report which found that optimism in the UK’s manufacturing sector has reached a 20-month high. It’s great to see such positive outlooks being reported. However, without wanting to be negative, the ability for the manufacturing sector to realise significant growth depends on their ability to secure and retain a strong, highly skilled workforce. And that’s going to be a challenge.

In the years to come, it’s inevitable that manufacturing will be one of the sectors most affected by digitisation. Automated manufacturing isn’t anything new; many manufacturers already rely on robots to complete significant components of their production cycle. However, the progression of digitisation in manufacturing is set to sky rocket in the coming years.

Digitisation vs. manufacturing

As technology becomes more sophisticated, manufacturers will look to harness it’s capabilities in new, innovative ways – to increase output and productivity; reduce lead times; improve safety; enhance quality; and much more.

From a labour market perspective, we’re already seeing the impact of this on the manufacturing workforce. As the technological revolution has taken hold, total employment in manufacturing has declined, while output has grown. In fact, as our recent whitepaper outlined, between 1990 and 2014 manufacturing’s share of total employment fell across almost all advanced economies – by 34% in Japan, 33% in France, 31% in the US, and by 25% in Germany.

Nonetheless, new technologies can be expensive and require people with specialist skills to implement, optimise and maintain them. Consequently, manufacturers are still hesitant to say ‘hello automation, goodbye workers’ completely. However, these specialist skills continue to be in short supply and are difficult to find, secure and retain.

In fact, our latest Talent Shortage Survey found that Engineers are the third hardest to find skill in the UK; and Technicians are the 8th hardest to find. And looking to the future, the skills pipeline is still lacking. While there are plenty of initiatives out there which aim to increase the number of STEM skills in the workforce, these will take years to come to fruition. So, in the short-term, employers need to think differently about their attraction and retention strategies to ensure they are competitive.

Where are all the skills?

In the years to come, it’s inevitable that manufacturing will be one of the sectors most affected by digitisation. At the same time, the sector will continue to be hampered by a shortage of the specialist skills it desperately needs.

That’s where Manpower can help. We take hard-to-fill vacancies, and turn them into opportunities. With 60 years’ heritage in the UK, we know how to tap into scarce candidate markets and build compelling propositions that position our clients as an employer of choice.

If you’d like to find out more about our expertise in the manufacturing sector, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly on Michael.Matthewman@manpower.co.uk.


To find out more about our expertise in manufacturing recruitment and workforce planning, visit manpower.co.uk/manufacturing or email us at manufacturing@manpower.co.uk