Oshin Cassidy, chief people and culture officer at Essentra PLC believes that while there are many highly-skilled jobs and careers in manufacturing, these are often lost in a stereotypical and incorrect portrayal of the sector as ‘unskilled labour’. “This is harmful to the inflow of new talent,” Cassidy commented.
More than three quarters (77 per cent) of those surveyed reported problems filling vacancies, and a similar figure (74 per cent) were said to lack the necessary skills their prospective employers require.
Few sectors are finding it easy to recruit the engineers, but there is variation across the verticals; over 90 per cent of respondents from the automotive, oil & gas, and aerospace sectors said they are struggling to recruit, but this figure falls to 58 per cent for the energy sector and 38 per cent for consumer goods.
The findings also suggest that recruitment difficulties vary according to company size, with 97 per cent of respondents from the largest companies (employing 5,000 plus) reporting challenges filling vacancies, whilst just over half of respondents from the smallest companies represented (1-9 employees) report similar problems.
“The ‘skills gap’ doesn’t only include engineers on the manufacturing floor. It also includes future leaders,” said Cassidy.
“COVID-19 has also given way to a new generation of leaders, individuals who have positively thrived through the crisis, and have proven they have the resilience and fortitude their employers so desperately need.
“Many of them have high levels of EQ, as well as IQ, and this is a significant shift in culture. Whereas once the ability to empathise with an employee was a ‘nice to have’, today it is essential, and these ‘softer’ skills have taken on a new importance.”
The report, which sought to uncover the biggest concerns facing engineers working in UK manufacturing, found that hybrid working would help attract more new talent to the industry; 63 per cent have a hybrid working programme in place.
Resignations, however, are an ongoing problem and exacerbate the shortage of engineers already being felt. Almost a third (32 per cent) of respondents said they have noticed a growth in resignations at a senior level, and filling the gaps was a concern.
“The next generation of workers don’t want to work in manufacturing, largely based on perception, and possibly the impact of the ‘gig’ economy and the change to ways of working, but it is also partly about education,” said Cassidy.
“Our education systems are not yet in tune with the skills that we need going forward. Businesses themselves can only do so much.”