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Manufacturers urged to upskill themselves out of a ‘fight for talent’

A new study has revealed that manufacturers are having to compete with tech firms and other digital sectors for workers with the right technical skills, making upskilling more important than ever.

According to research published by Make UK and Sage, the drive towards digitalisation and automation has many left manufacturing companies ‘desperate’ to recruit qualified technical engineers and data experts. The accelerating trend of ‘greenification’ is also increasing the demand for skills in areas such as resource efficiency and net zero.

Demand for these skills is already high across the economy and will continue to intensify over the course of this decade, pitting manufacturers against a much wider pool of companies in the fight to recruit and retain talent.

At the same time, the rise of automation means many lower skilled jobs are likely to become obsolete. Recent research by Arden University suggests as many as 1.3 million manufacturing jobs may be replaced by automation in the UK by 2030. 

Focusing on upskilling and retraining existing employees to ensure their technical skills keep pace with changing needs can be a solution to both issues.

Carl Lygo, CEO and Vice Chancellor at Arden University, commented:

“Upskilling is most urgent – particularly for the employees who may not have the digital skills to prepare them for the evolving jobs of the future. As digital technology plays a more prominent role in most jobs, and more employees work alongside tech, basic digital literacy will become an essential skill, on a par with reading and writing.”

Programmes such as Made Smarter can provide SME manufacturers with dedicated support to upskill their workforce for digitalisation.

As well as digital skills, Make UK’s research also shows there will be rapidly growing demand in manufacturing for wider, non-technical skillsets this decade:

  • 64 per cent of firms surveyed cited an increased need for people management skills
  • 65 per cent expect demand for social and emotional skills such as empathy, responsibility and collaboration to increase
  • 74 per cent expect demand for cognitive skills such as critical thinking, creative thinking and ‘learning to learn’ to increase.


For one-to-one support and advice on workforce development and skills planning, get in touch with our Manufacturing Team today.

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