NW Manufacturing: Skills in focus

CONCERNS over skills shortages in the manufacturing sector are well-known, with a major problem being a lack of new blood entering industry.

There is a widely-held perception that manufacturing is dirty, low paid and unglamorous.

John Morris, chief executive of Sale-based JAM Recruitment, which specialises in engineering and manufacturing recruitment, said: “The government, and to an extent industry, is doing too little to educate young people at a grass roots level about the benefits of choosing a career in manufacturing.”

Click here to download our 18-page Manufacturing Supplement in association with DLA Piper and Lloyds Bank. 

But how do you incentivise subjects that have not previously been seen as attractive? Some suggest a reduction in university fees, funded by government, for those core subjects that are addressing the skills gap

Others think the recent increase in tuition fees will solve the problem – now that students have to pay there is some evidence that they are going for courses that are more likely to result in a job and applications for engineering degrees have increased.

However, increased numbers of engineering graduates do not automatically translate to more young people entering the manufacturing sector.

Around 30,000 engineering graduates are needed but only 20,000 are going through education and a large percentage of them are moving into a sector other than engineering or manufacturing.

Manufacturing does itself a disservice by failing to properly advertise what it does to potential employees.

Mike Burns, partner in employment law at DLA Piper, said: “The sector
has not promoted itself as the service sector has over a period of years. The pay might be better to start with in services but it does not have the same long-term career trajectory.”

East Manchester company Thos. Storey Fabrications is a tier one supplier to the likes of Caterpillar and JCB and employs around 120 staff at its Openshaw factory.

Managing director Fred Ellis says one of the biggest issues he encounters when recruiting is a general attitude to work, particularly where there has been a generation of worklessness within a family.

To try and counter this, Thos Storey has invited primary school children from the local area on factory visits, since 2006.

The firm also works hard to break bad habits during a three month trial period by be strong on discipline, timeliness and orderliness.     

Click here to download our 18-page Manufacturing Supplement in association with DLA Piper and Lloyds Bank.