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The evolution of the manufacturing industry

With Manufacturing Day (7th July) upon us, it seems the perfect opportunity to highlight how the industry is developing and why it should be a chosen career path for young people.

For centuries, the manufacturing industry was known for its artisan workforce and whilst a career in the industry was seen as steady, it was also known for its intense manual labour, monotonous work, and lack of genuine career development.

The shift of power

Following the recession in the 1980’s, the Office for National Statistics reported that unemployment rates in the UK had reached a huge 11.9% (the highest in history) and the rise in job seekers made for tough competition for good jobs. This also meant that employers were in a position where applicants would accept lower rates of pay, along with poor working conditions and employees were easily replaceable.

Fast forward to today and the changes undergone by the manufacturing industry in the past few decades are undeniably eye-opening. With overall unemployment rates now at 3.7% (The lowest in history), a lack of applicants and the advancement of technology has created a drastic need for skilled workers. The market has become candidate driven and employers are having to prove to candidates why they’re the employer of choice over their competitors and consider what they need to do to attract and retain talent.

What are the key challenges in recruiting talent within the manufacturing industry?

Following the onset of the Industrial Revolution in the eighteenth century, people would have left school and the obvious career choice would have been to gain a skilled job role with opportunities a plenty in the manufacturing industry, in many cases people would have spent most of their working life with the same employer. This has arguably caused a ‘bottle neck’ of fresh talent coming through since careers in other industries have been the preferred choice such as teaching and social sciences. In recent years, the onset of social media there has also been a trend of careers in marketing and influencing with the consumer being encouraged more to purchase items after seeing them on platforms such as Instagram and Facebook

So, with all this in mind what could employers do to attract talent?

Manufacturing, as we know is an exciting career path but making some adjustments to the way businesses are competing for talent and communicating the key benefits particularly to those at the start of their career path could go a long way in retaining a skilled workforce

  • Attracting talent – Engage with colleges and universities to attract the very best talent to join in an entry level position and communicate how they can progress internally, ask to be involved in careers fairs
  • Utilise social media plat forms – Create a social media site with regular insights into the industry and benefits of working in a manufacturing environment as it evolves, furthermore – It’s free!!
  • Engagement – With career progression being high on people’s agenda, training, and mentoring managers to invest their time in the personal development of the people who work for you will aid retention as well as pass on practical knowledge. This could include support with apprenticeships, regular review meetings to ensure individuals continue to feel engaged, buddying up with a workplace mentor and the opportunity to ask for feedback. In the long run, having these strategies in place is more cost effective than externally recruiting someone in order to backfill a vacant position
  • Salary benchmarking – According to a report conducted by The Manufacturer, the average salary in the manufacturing industry is £32,500 per annum once qualified, ensure that that you’re in line with industry expectations

 In summary, the manufacturing industry is being led by its technological advances and no longer are we thinking of working in the industry as archaic bound by manual process and labour, it’s playing such a huge part in our daily lives across a variety of sectors therefore, working in the manufacturing industry is a rewarding career choice where individuals could be making a real difference we just need to ensure that we are exhausting opportunities to both attract and retain talent and don’t under estimate the impact of a happy and engaged workforce. Nurturing the new generation of skilled talent as well as retaining the existing as part of the ongoing contingency planning process will prevent a skills shortage in the long run.