Chief Executive, Policy Connect
We need to look at how we make the manufacturing and engineering industry more attractive and encourage people to partake in its opportunities.
To the outside world, the manufacturing sector conjures up images of monolithic factories, dirty overalls and loud machines. In reality, manufacturing and engineering are where the green jobs are, the cutting edge of tech and innovation.
Manufacturing and engineering are essential now in the transition to net zero. It was this sector that responded so swiftly to pivot its production lines to life-saving ventilators, face masks and vaccines during COVID-19.
This flexibility means that the sector is best placed to tackle its own emissions – the steel, glass, ceramics and cement industries are already working on innovations and tech solutions that will ensure they go green before they go offshore. If we get this right, not only will we keep hold of current jobs, but we will bring jobs back to the UK.
The jobs of today and tomorrow need skilled men and women.
Preparing the workforce of the future
But the jobs of today and tomorrow need skilled men and women. Identifying what those skills are is what Policy Connect’s Manufacturing Commission is currently exploring. We are identifying real-world examples of what industry is already doing to prepare our future workforce, but there are still big questions to be answered.
• Make UK’s survey found 89% of its members were concerned about losing skilled workers. A quarter of the sector’s workforce changed jobs or left in 2021 – the highest level in recent years. How can employers keep hold of talent?
• We know that £650 billion is going to be spent on infrastructure over the next 40 years. How do we coordinate better across regions to know what projects are planned when and what skills will be needed?
• What tools already exist to capture labour market intelligence and identify skills needs across different occupations?
• Can we make shorter re-skilling/up-skilling courses available to improve take-up?
Filling gaps in talent
The question underpinning it all is how we make this sector attractive to young people – particularly young women and people from diverse backgrounds. Women make up half the population but only 14.5% of the engineering workforce. That’s a lot of missing talent that would help change the image of manufacturing and engineering.
If we want to meet net zero by 2050, we need our young people to become the engineers of the future to make it happen. But for that, manufacturing urgently needs a rebrand.