If You’re Not Part of the Solution, You’re Part of the Problem

Author : Jamie Cater, Senior Policy Manager for Make UK

07 March 2024

Caption: The Make UK Technology Hub provides an essential stepping stone in young engineers’ career development
Caption: The Make UK Technology Hub provides an essential stepping stone in young engineers’ career development

Manufacturers across the UK are investing heavily in their people, and the nurturing of the next generation of nascent engineering talent is critical to the sector’s success over the coming years. As employers face the challenges of digitalisation, automation and net zero, the manufacturing workforce is changing - and accessing the right skills training is a major priority for businesses. This article explains how Make UK is supporting these businesses.

Though the intent is undoubtedly there, the barriers faced by businesses when it comes to securing the intake of individuals with the right technical skills and implementing the best training to support them can be significant. A Make UK survey found that more than half of manufacturers cannot access the talent they need locally, with nearly as many stating that further education (FE) colleges and other education providers are not able to meet the training needs they require. 

Despite these issues, the appetite for investment in training and skills development is strong. Well over 50% of manufacturers will recruit at least 1 apprentice in the next year, and the majority of firms have increased the amount that they allocate per employee on skills training. 

This is not just limited to young people entering the world of work for the 1st time. There is also growing demand for upskilling and retraining the existing workforce - to ensure that the sector will continue to benefit from the knowledge and experience that these individuals can offer over a longer period.

Providing the necessary support
As technological change and the desire for more sustainable manufacturing processes grow in importance, the demand from employers for better access to training is only going to increase. Make UK’s Technology Hub (which is situated in Birmingham) is helping to meet this ever-increasing demand and address the need for high-quality training opportunities for young people. 

The Hub has an intake of around 400 new engineering apprentices every year. This provides manufacturing employers of all sizes with vital assistance in the training of emerging engineering talent - with a variety of training needs right across their workforce being met. It works over the entire region to highlight the exciting training and engineering career opportunities available to young people, and where businesses can benefit from investing in them.

Caption: Some of the Make UK apprentice training intake
Caption: Some of the Make UK apprentice training intake

Government funding
The UK Chancellor’s announcement in his autumn statement of £50 million in financial backing to support more apprenticeships in engineering and other growth sectors is a welcome step forward in reversing the trend of declining numbers of entrants into engineering over the last 5 years. This will provide a boost to businesses who need greater assistance with their apprenticeship training activities, as well as the associated training providers’ ability to meet demand for engineering courses at a local level.

Make UK is also working with its members and the government to promote greater uptake of engineering and manufacturing T Level industry placements. While this new qualification is still very much in its infancy, employers seeking to expand their talent pipeline and apprentice recruitment are already looking to offer 45-day placements to 16-18 year-olds as a way of delivering some much-needed pre-emptive insight into careers in industry. Manufacturers are finding that this gives them the potential to invest in talent at a much earlier stage - starting to develop the technical skills and expertise they need in their business, and looking to progress them onto apprenticeships to bring them up to occupational competence, before incorporating them fully into the skilled workforce.

In order for it to thrive, the whole manufacturing sector needs a sustainable pipeline of STEM skills. It is for this reason that Make UK is working with young people and employers. By doing so it will be able to ensure that this actually happens.

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