New research conducted by EEF has shown UK manufacturers are very optimistic about growth in 2018. However, there is a growing concern among manufacturing organisations regarding the post-Brexit skills shortage.
The EEF poll saw British manufacturers more optimistic about the global economy in the coming year than any time since 2014 due to a stronger growth in key export markets.
A significant conclusion of the research was that only 7% of the companies surveyed are planning to move production to the EU and 6% to a non-EU location, but on the other hand a slightly greater proportion (12%) are planning to move production back to the UK.
However, despite the optimistic outlook on 2018, several industry organisations are concerned about the expected skills shortage in Post-Brexit UK.
European Flexographic Industry: Reshoring & skills crisis
Leading trade association for the flexographic industry, The European Flexographic Industry Association (EFIA), for instance, stated that uncertainty over Brexit negotiations is seeing a rise in reshoring – the process of reintroducing domestic manufacturing to the UK.
The EFIA states that this offers significant opportunities to the print and packaging industry but only if businesses are prepared to invest in employee training to counter the widespread skills shortage faced by British manufacturers.
The need to address Britain’s skills shortage that has arisen through years of production offshoring and resulted in a decline in specialist workforce know-how and formal training provision.
As well as destabilising the print and packaging industry’s future prosperity by making succession planning precarious, the expertise deficit raises questions about whether UK businesses are ready to cope with manufacturing operations returning home.
EFIA believes that the answer to this problem is the provision of independent specialist vocational training and is working to deliver this across the entire flexo supply chain. It believes that this is a vital investment that companies embarking on reshoring programmes must make to secure their success.
The impact of Brexit for UK print and packaging businesses may be difficult to predict at this stage, but the changes ahead can be positioned as valuable opportunities if appropriate provision is made in advance of reshoring activities.
British manufacturing organisations are in a strong position to win important new contracts with their ability to offer quality with fewer supply chain concerns, but they must first be prepared with the staff and equipment to deliver.
“No Trade barriers after Brexit”
The British Pump Manufacturers Association (BPMA) has circulated a position paper to MPs, civil servants and government departments dealing with Brexit and has reportedly received a positive response.
According to the BPMA, the best option from an economic perspective is for Britain stay in the single market or the customs union and to continue with “Free Trade” in both directions with unrestricted movement of capital within a company across Europe.
The BPMA states that the British government might give a new name to a new agreement with the European Union; however, it is imperative that there are no barriers to trade in either direction.
EU nationals and possible skills crisis
Almost 80% of the BPMA industry employ EU Nationals and, according to the paper, they wish to continue to do so.
The BPMA believes that a controlled movement of people with a certain level of skills would continue to be a benefit to the sector and the UK in general.
As a manufacturing sector, the pump industry uses staff within a shop floor environment to a board room, from technical design office to on site commissioning and the industry currently has EU nationals in many of these positions.
The BPMA claims, that universities should be able to continue to offer placements for overseas students from within and outside of the EU and they should be given a privileged status to remain in the UK two years after their tertiary education before applying for permanent residency.
The BPMA also requested that any future agreements regarding EU Nationals working in the UK don’t contribute further to the sector’s skills shortage.