David Phillips, Managing Director of City & Guilds, provides insight into how the manufacturing industry can attract more young people into the sector to ensure its continued success.
The manufacturing sector is entering an exciting era. Fueled by technology and automation, the industry is expected to see a whole new level of productivity and growth. However, this growth is at risk of being stunted due to labor shortages. With older workers retiring and the industry becoming increasingly competitive, a dwindling workforce is threatening the industry’s future.
With recent research by Lightcast estimating that the industry will create a staggering 32,000 new jobs over the next five years (2022 – 2027), the industry needs to ensure it is recruiting new, younger talent to see this new era of manufacturing arrive. fruition.
And that won’t be an easy task. figures from our Poorly spent youth report reveal that while nearly a third (31%) of 18- to 25-year-olds would consider working in the industry, when asked to choose a profession they want to work in, only 2% chose manufacturing.
So why are young people being turned off by manufacturing?
There persists a lack of awareness about manufacturing and the exciting careers it can offer – in fact, over a quarter (27%) of respondents say they would not consider a career in manufacturing because they don’t know enough about the diverse jobs available in the sector. Some young people are put off by the (mistaken) perception of jobs that involve manual labor (21%), that they are poorly paid (14%) or that the jobs do not lead to a lifetime career (13%).
And the problems don’t stop there, our numbers also reveal a worrying gender gap – with just 19% of young women showing interest in the sector compared to 44% of young men – further threatening the future talent pipeline.
Raising awareness of the breadth of jobs and opportunities available will be crucial if the industry is to tackle its current skills shortage and attract younger generations to participate in the future of manufacturing.
So what can be done?
Engage with youth in the skills system from an early age
With the aim of nurturing a new generation of talent, an important way for employers to effectively engage with young people is through the UK’s skills system. Apprenticeship programs and skills bootcamps are seriously underutilized yet valuable avenues that employers have at hand to recruit and train young talent.
Employers can also go further and proactively work with local schools, colleges and educational institutions to help ensure that the skills taught meet the needs of industry employers and to help students view their learning through the lens of their future careers.
Increase industry visibility through work experience
Work experience – an activity highly sought after by students – can be a key way for young people to understand what the industry is like and how they can be part of the manufacturing workforce.
Employers can look to build relationships with schools and colleges and offer work placements to educate young people about the industry. This will help to mitigate any misconceptions, show young people how careers in the industry require creativity and problem solving, and offer an exciting career path across a wide range of roles.
Skill over experience – making the application process easier for young people, especially the most disadvantaged
Young people without work experience are likely to find the job application process daunting and may even avoid a role they are interested in if they feel they are not equipped with the skills to do so. In fact, our research shows that 30% of those who aren’t interested in manufacturing jobs say they don’t feel they have the right skill set.
Removing barriers, such as grade requirements for some qualifications and emphasizing personality and attitude to work or supporting travel expenses for internships and interviews, is crucial to engaging young people in a diverse and inclusive workforce.
To see growth and success in this sector, the industry needs to ensure it has a thriving workforce to meet its aspirations. To do this, employers need to do more to engage young people by portraying an industry that is accessible, varied in opportunities and ready to invest in their future.
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