UK manufacturers ‘massively hamstrung by a lack of skills’, Barometer reveals

More than half of UK manufacturers believe they lack the workforce skills required to take advantage of ‘reshoring’, In-Comm Training’s Barometer has revealed.


In total, 53 per cent of companies said they would need to invest in increasing the skills of the workforce if they are to bring work home, with just over a quarter saying they have successfully brought contracts back over the last twelve months.

A similar number (23 per cent) have reshoring strategies, with the majority holding back due to restraints with their current and future workforce.

The findings from over 100 manufacturers highlight the current labour shortage hitting industry and indicated changing perceptions towards ‘growing your own’ staff.

Eighty two 82 per cent of management teams have indicated they are planning to take on an apprentice in the next twelve months, citing developing future talent as the most popular reason, followed closely by ‘filling a skills gap’. Just 12 per cent said the latter was their reason for investing in vocational learning in 2022, compared to 46 per cent in 2023.

“It’s a very complicated training and skills landscape out there at the moment,” said Gareth Jones, managing director of In-Comm Training.

“Engineering and manufacturing seem very buoyant and we’re constantly hearing stories of growth and new opportunities, especially around future mobility and a resurgent aerospace sector. Our Barometer echoes this in part, but also paints a picture of a sector that is massively hamstrung by a lack of skills.

“An already huge gap has been accentuated due to Brexit and effects of the pandemic, not to mention the fact that businesses are fishing in a jobs market that is favouring the candidate more than the employer for the first time in years.”

Jones said: “So how are manufacturers responding? This is where things get very complicated.”

Although more than three quarters are worried about retirement causing an even bigger drain on skills, this is not directly reflected in the number of firms planning to upskill their existing workforce to fill some of the gaps that are appearing. According to the Barometer, 55 per cent of companies plan to boost the skills of their existing staff.

Jones said: “This is where we need to engage the disengaged businesses. There are too many owner-managed companies not looking to grow or develop succession plans, resulting in some really good manufacturers failing due to a lack of planning.

“One of the barriers is often losing staff for a significant length of time when they are training, which leads me to think we need to explore more modular, shorter courses rather than longer, wider qualifications. Firms want employees that have a specific skill set and that sometimes doesn’t fit an apprentice framework for example.

“In reality, industry wants the old EITB model back where it becomes a levy for all types of training and not just for apprenticeships. We’re certain that would be the holy grail for employers.”

Whilst a lot of the skills issues for manufacturers have been long running, the next industrial revolution has developed the need for a new set of skills, predominantly around Industry 4.0 and Digital Manufacturing.

These were identified in this year’s In-Comm Training barometer as being key requirements, with 48 per cent and 54 per cent respectively saying they want to invest in these areas. They have also risen in importance from 2022, whereas electrification has remained constant, hovering around the 20 per cent.

Information generated from the In-Comm Training Barometer will be shared with key industry stakeholders, technical partners and with Ministers.