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UK manufacturers battle with the City to attract digital skills

26 September, 2022

UK manufacturers are having to compete with the financial sector and other high-paying parts of the economy to recruit the data specialists that they need to drive the move to digitalisation. A new survey by the British manufacturers’ group Make UK and the accountancy firm Sage reveals that more than a quarter (27%) of UK manufacturers say that they now need data analysts to help them make the transition to the digital era.

According to the report, 2030 Skills: Closing the Gap, companies are now “desperate” to recruit the best qualified technical engineers and data experts to ensure that new automation projects are as successful as possible. It estimates that there are currently 95,000 manufacturing vacancies, costing the UK economy £7.7bn a year – a £21m daily loss to GDP.

Half of British manufacturers say that they cannot find the talent their businesses need locally, and 62% fear that they will not find it easy to find the skills they need in the run-up to 2030. Automation, digitalisation and environmental sustainability are top priorities for investment among manufacturers, with 58% of companies planning to recruit engineering technicians while 61% want to hire production and process engineers.

Half of the manufacturers report that offering flexible working has helped them to recruit and retain workers and almost all (90%) now offer flexible arrangements to non-production staff. However, more than a quarter are sticking to rigid shift patterns for their production staff.

The report calls for a Training Investment Allowance which, it says, would boost skills creation with a tax rebate on the costs of upskilling existing employees. It says manufacturers want tax relief on investing in training in ways that are easy to understand and implement.

“Government should also look to urgently create an Employer Training Fund, funded by a portion of unspent Apprenticeship Levy funds, to support the upskilling and retraining of existing employees in critical skills as well as providing support to bring through the next generation of talent through routes such as T Levels for manufacturers to train up straight from school,” suggests Make UK CEO, Stephen Phipson. “This would also be the time to introduce apprenticeship incentives for areas of skills shortages, where targeted incentive payments are made available for apprenticeship courses (standards) in those skills areas where supply is most scarce.

The Make UK/Safe report says that manufacturers are competing with City banks to attract digitally skilled employees

“To address the issue of labour shortages which is now at critical point,” he adds, “Government must ensure that the revised Shortage Occupation List is in place as soon as possible to plug the huge skills gap in data and digital technicians which are simply not available to employers from the domestic labour force."

According to Paul Struthers, managing director of Sage in the UK and Ireland, the digital transformation “has created a need for more specialist, digital skills, required to maximise the benefits of technology. With labour shortages on the rise, urgent reform of the Apprenticeship Levy is required so that manufacturers can access and nurture the talent they need to remain successful and continue to grow.”

Make UK:  Twitter  LinkedIn

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