Companies need to play role to fix manufacturing skills shortage

Posted on 23 Jul 2014 by Tim Brown

According to Engineering UK, engineering-based companies nationwide are going to struggle to fill an estimated 2.74 million job openings this decade due to a deficit in engineering skills.

Figures from the last 12 months show that there will be an estimated 87,000 new jobs created per year which will require people with engineering degrees (including foundation, undergraduate and postgraduate) qualifications. Currently the UK produces only 46,000 engineering graduates each year.

Similarly there is presently an annual demand for around 69,000 new people qualified at advanced apprenticeship or equivalent level each year. Yet only around 27,000 UK apprentices a year currently qualify at the appropriate level.

GE Aviation Wales, winner of The Manufacturer of the Year 2013 as well as the hotly contested People and Skills category award, was described by the judges as ‘a great example of a mature but forward thinking company that is committed to the ongoing building of an inclusive STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) talent pool.’

Speaking recently about the topic of skills in industry, Mike Patton, Managing Director at GE Aviation, Wales said: “If we look around today at the types of companies we have on our doorstep, I believe the UK has something positive to shout about.

“We have a wealth of technical skills and knowledge, as well as a strong history of innovation. I believe talent development is key to the future of manufacturing.”

Demonstrating the company’s commitment to the skills agenda and employee engagement, under Mr Patton’s leadership, GE Aviation Wales now provides mentoring at four schools, has formed links with nine universities, provides 300 work experience places from 30 schools each year and currently has around 150 apprentices.

Background on the Manufacturer of the Year Awards

The Manufacturer of the Year Awards is dedicated to recognising and celebrating industry achievement and highlighting the diversity and strength of UK manufacturing. The awards aim to spread best practice, inspire others and show the important role UK manufacturing plays in today’s economy. It’s free to enter and entries for this year’s awards close on 31st July and can be made by visiting the website

The results of these initiatives plus a host of other employee benefits have not only been reflected in the increase to the company’s bottom line but it has also achieved an enviable staff retention rate of 99.9%.

“By harnessing UK employees’ technical abilities, and developing strong skill sets, I believe we can have a competitive position and further enhance the UK’s reputation as a key place to trade. Programmes like apprenticeships, internships and graduate traineeships are instrumental to help develop the workforce of the future,” said Patton.

“I believe that interacting with schools and engaging young people in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects from an early age is vital to ensure we stimulate a continued interest in STEM as they move up the education ladder and in turn encourages them to make subject choices that will put them in good stead to pursue a STEM-related career in the UK engineering and science industries.”