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Manufacturing careers fail to appeal to Generation Z

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Written by: Hannah Baker | Posted 05 December 2018 16:13

Manufacturing careers fail to appeal to Generation Z

Only three per cent of Generation Z (16 to 23-year-olds) in the South West are considering a career in manufacturing, according to new research.

A career in manufacturing does not appeal to 54 per cent of young people, while 41 per cent don't believe they have the skills, the report from Barclays Corporate Banking revealed.

Instead young people in the South West aspire towards careers in IT, digital and technology, with manufacturing ranking only 17th out of 19 potential career paths.

There are misconceptions around the skills that workers can develop, with younger people unaware that advanced technology is a key driver of growth for UK manufacturing companies.

The report found that many manufacturers recognise that there is a perception barrier to recruitment.

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Nearly half (42 per cent) of the businesses surveyed in the South West admit that perceptions of manufacturing jobs have become worse over the past 20 years.

The industry is struggling to attract a diverse workforce, with just three per cent of young women in Britain contemplating a career in the manufacturing industry, compared to nine per cent of young men in the country.  

According to the OECD, women in G20 countries account for only one in four university graduates in the STEM-based subjects of science, technology, engineering and maths.

Helena Sans, head of manufacturing at Barclays, said: “Transforming outdated perceptions of manufacturing isn’t an easy feat, as stereotypes are hard to break, but the potential gains that come with a re-invigorated workforce and a new wave of talent in the industry, offer a tangible return on this investment.

“It is clear that there is a mis-match between perceptions of manufacturing and the reality of what a career in manufacturing can provide.

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"The skills most desired by young people include decision-making, complex problem-solving and technical skills but these match the skills that manufacturers say employees gain from working in the industry and highlights the need for businesses to engage and inspire the younger generation."

In order to have an impact by 2050, says Helena, manufacturers need to find ways to educate and support the next generation now.

She added: "One solution to this is to focus on appealing to women as well as men as it’s clear that there is currently a huge gender gap in perceptions of the manufacturing industry.”

Recruitment solutions

Manufacturers in the South West have tried a variety of strategies to overcome recruitment challenges in the past five years, including establishing apprenticeship schemes and forging partnerships with further education colleges and universities.

The skills most in demand from young people in the region are social skills (44 per cent), decision-making (44 per cent) and resource management skills (39 per cent).

From an industry perspective, a career in manufacturing is well-matched to the skills that young people want to attain.

Connecting with young people on their preferred social media platforms, advises Helena, can help raise awareness that a career in manufacturing will meet these future aspirations.

Manufacturers are facing a skill gap

Against this backdrop, 58 per cent of South West manufacturers are finding it difficult to recruit, not only among young people but also with experienced workers.

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Two thirds of businesses say their employees lack the correct technical skills for the trade, such as equipment maintenance and repair, followed by advanced technical skills and the ability to maintain and manage 4IR technology.

But nearly a third of businesses (32 per cent) do not plan to change their recruitment strategies or invest more in recruitment.

Attracting the right talent

Manufacturers in the South West could add an extra £562million to the UK economy per year by 2023 by investing more in recruitment drives such as apprenticeship programmes, graduate recruitment strategies and collaborations with universities or other institutions, according the Barclays' research.

However, only 14 per cent of firms in the South West surveyed have plans to promote the benefits of a career in manufacturing over the next five years.

Employing these strategies could help tackle misconceptions about manufacturing and encourage the next generation to study the relevant subjects to plug recruitment gaps, resulting in both commercial benefits and a brighter future for manufacturing.  

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