How can manufacturers overcome the skills gap?

HSO, a leading provider of innovative enterprise business solutions, explores how technology can help manufacturers to attract new entrants to the industry.

In recent times manufacturing has matured considerably, into an industry at the forefront of modern technology.

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The highly intelligent manufacturing models of today are built to support global supply chains as they serve empowered customers.

The highly intelligent manufacturing models of today are built to support global supply chains as they serve empowered customers, and a need to allay growing pressures of process management across a diverse mix of international markets.

These advancements have left the industry needing more skilled workers. Here, however, lies the problem.

According to The Manufacturing Institute’s EEF Skills Report 2016, 73% of manufacturers experience difficulty attracting adequate talent, with manufacturing ranking among the industries that 18-24 year-olds least want to work in.

So let’s explore how this shortage of appropriate skills has come about and look at how technology can help manufacturers to attract new entrants to the industry.

Research from Zurich suggests that one in three mid-sized manufacturing organisations are having to recruit abroad to find workers with the required skills.

This puts them under huge pressure, hinders growth, and in turn is a threat to Britain’s economic growth, which sees approximately £139bn of output from manufacturing.

Why is there a skills gap?

In recent years, the manufacturing industry has changed beyond all recognition.

HSO Manufacturing Line Robot Automotive image
The increasing automation of plant operations requires specific knowledge, encompassing design and planning – image courtesy of HSO.

One of the reasons for the skills gap is the increasing automation of plant operations which require specific knowledge, encompassing design and planning. These technological innovations demand more skilled workers.

A STEM-based (science, technology, engineering and maths) education is therefore valuable to anyone entering the world of manufacturing.

Incentivising new recruits

The lack of interest shown by young people in the industry may be partly due to a misconception about what a manufacturing job would be like.

Many young people are unaware of the way technology has transformed this sector in recent years and of the skills required in manufacturing.

It’s therefore down to manufacturers to change this misconception. They need to spread the word that they are using the latest technologies such as ERP and CRM, and that manufacturing is an exciting and fast-moving industry, with plenty of opportunities for career development.

Appealing to millennials

Companies should decide which devices and providers they will allow and support.
Young people aged between 20 and 30 have been brought up with technology, so working with it is second nature to them.

Young people aged between 20 and 30 may have limited industry experience, but they have been brought up with technology, so working with it is second nature to them and innovations such as 3D printing, robotics and nanotechnology will appeal to them.

The technology is exciting and the manufacturing industry is the place to be to experience it, so what are companies doing to attract this young, fresh talent?

According to the EEF study, companies are investing in more incentives with 84% offering competitive salaries and 50% providing training and development opportunities. Nearly 80% said they planned to recruit manufacturing and engineering apprentices in the coming 12 months.

Using technology to bridge the skills gap

With manufacturing processes becoming more complex, supply chains becoming ever more global and customer expectations continually increasing, manufacturers are using sophisticated CRM and ERP software solutions to manage their businesses.

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The ease-of-use of these solutions is helping to bridge the skills gap as a broad range of employees can use the software. It puts relevant information into the hands of those who need it without the need for extensive training.

Increasing investment in this type of technology is helping manufacturing companies to attract millennial workers as well as remain competitive in a highly pressurised marketplace.