In a survey of 1,000 British manufacturers – part of the IMechE’s Manufacturing a Successful Economy 2013 report – 57% report that apprentices, graduates and new recruits lack practical skills, 45% say they lack design skills, and 42% say they lack communication skills. Also in short supply were management skills (mentioned by 71% of firms), leadership (53%) and good maths and science (36%).
The poll reveals manufacturing firms are still finding it difficult to recruit at all levels. Of the manufacturers polled, 60% said that they were finding it hard to recruit design engineers, 39% said they have difficulty recruiting people with skills in production, and 36% said they were struggling to find new product specialists.
The poll shows that while 28% of manufacturers are sending manufacturing work abroad, 20% are bringing it back to UK (“reshoring”). Of these companies, 52% said that the reason was to maintain manufacturing quality, 32% said it was to protect intellectual property, and 28% cited shipping costs.
More than 60% of manufacturers say uncertainty surrounding the UK’s EU future is negatively impacting manufacturing – an increase from 53% in 2012.
“Having a good work ethic along with good skills in maths and science is fundamental to success in manufacturing, so it is hugely concerning that so many manufacturers have highlighted this as an issue,” says Philippa Oldham, the IMechE’s head of manufacturing. “UK manufacturers are nervous, as these figures clearly show. The UK remains in the economic doldrums and has seen next to no growth since our 2012 survey.
“Manufacturing and engineering remains the best way to help create and build a stronger economic model for the UK over the coming decades,” she adds. “There have been lots of reports about UK manufacturers re-shoring, but our survey shows that more UK companies are off-shoring their manufacturing. This shows that Government needs to do more to reinforce the technical and economic benefits of localised manufacturing.
“These survey results give a real warning to the UK if we are to be internationally competitive and help rebalance our economy we need manufacturers to be producing products for new markets and to increase our exports to developing nations,” says Oldham.
“Government must gain cross-party support on a long-term industrial strategy which engages with industry and addresses the engineering skills shortage, invests in new process and business model development and provides greater access to sufficient capital investment for companies to develop new products and manufacturing processes.”