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Blog - Future-proofing the Skilled Manufacturing Workforce

While the UK Government no longer has a specific Industrial Strategy in place, Ministers continue to highlight the importance of advanced manufacturing to the UK economy. The new Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, has spoken of its value in his latest Budget, as well as during several speeches to private sector audiences. Meanwhile, the Opposition Labour Party has produced its own Industrial Strategy, ‘Prosperity Through Partnership’ setting out its own vision for if it wins the next election.

A major part of any strategy designed to ensure the UK’s manufacturing sector thrives in future is addressing a growing skills shortage in the industry. Much of the skilled manufacturing workforce is reaching retirement age and there is an increasing need to ensure the next generation are properly trained, not just to replace those leaving but to drive up standards and create a workforce fit for the modern world.

And yet, according to research from Make UK, ‘some 36% of vacancies in manufacturing are proving hard t-to-fill as applicants lack the appropriate skills, qualifications or experience. This compares to an average rate of 24% across all industries.’

There is a clear role for Government to play in improving the skills and training agenda, supporting apprenticeship programmes, and ensuring more school leavers go on to study STEM subjects at college and university to become the skilled technicians, engineers, and scientists of tomorrow. However, there is also a necessity for the industry to up its game too - both individual businesses and UK-based trade associations – and develop its careers and training offerings across the board.

Ensuring a pipeline of excellence in skills and training in the Surface Engineering and Advanced Coatings Sector was one of the reasons SELF was established. Across its various member organisations, a host of accredited courses and training exists and you can find links to some of those opportunities on the SELF website here. Opportunities range from internal sector training and accreditation to masters degree level apprenticeships like the Material Process Engineer Masters Degree Apprenticeship run through Cranfield University. Many courses can be subsidised for employers, either by offsetting against the Apprenticeship Levy or with other discounts, especially for SMEs.

SELF encourages employers to take a look at what training opportunities are available and to take the opportunity to invest in the future of their workforce. And, of course, we will continue to push for more engagement from Government to ensure an appropriate skills and training framework is in place for manufacturing to thrive in the UK in future.



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