How can the manufacturing sector attract more young people?

Posted on 13 Jun 2023 by The Manufacturer

David Phillips, managing director at City & Guilds, provides insights into how the manufacturing industry can attract more young people into the sector to ensure its ongoing and future success.

The manufacturing sector is entering an exciting era. Powered by technology and automation, the sector is expected to see a whole new level of productivity and growth. Yet this growth is in danger of being stunted due to labour shortages. With older workers retiring and the industry only becoming more competitive, the dwindling workforce is threatening the future of the sector.

With recent research from Lightcast estimating that the industry is to create a staggering 32,000 new jobs within the next five years (2022 – 2027), the sector needs to ensure that it is recruiting new, younger talent to see this new age of manufacturing come to fruition.

And this won’t be an easy feat. Figures from our Youth Misspent report reveal that while nearly a third (31%) of 18 – 25 year olds would consider working in the sector, when asked to choose one profession they aspire to work in, only 2% chose manufacturing.

So, why are young people being turned off by manufacturing?

There remains a lack of awareness about manufacturing and the exciting career paths it can provide – in fact, over a quarter (27%) of respondents say that they wouldn’t consider a career in manufacturing because they don’t know enough about the varied jobs available in the sector. Some young people are put off by the (mis)perception of jobs involving manual work (21%), that they’re poorly paid (14%), or that the jobs don’t lead to a lifelong career (13%).

And the problems don’t stop there, our figures also uncover a worrying gender gap – with only 19% of young women showing interest in the sector in comparison to 44% of young men – further threatening the future talent pipeline.

David Phillips, Managing Director at City & Guilds

David Phillips, Managing Director at City & Guilds

Raising awareness of the breadth of jobs and opportunities available will be crucial if the sector wants to tackle its current skills shortage and attract younger generations to take part in the future of manufacturing.

So, what can be done?

Engage with young people in the skills system from early years

With the goal to foster a new generation of talent, a key way employers can effectively engage with young people is through the UK’s skills system. Apprenticeship programmes and skills bootcamps are seriously underutilised – yet valuable, pathways that employers have at hand to recruit and train young talent.

Employers can also go further and proactively work with local schools, colleges and educational to help ensure that the skills being taught meet the needs of employers in the sector, and to help students view their learning through the lens of their future careers.

Raise the visibility of the industry through work experience

Work experience – an activity heavily sought after by students – can be a key way for young people to understand what the industry is actually like and how they can be a part of the manufacturing workforce.

Employers can look to build rapport with schools and colleges and offer work experience placements in order to educate young people about the sector. This will help mitigate any misconceptions, show young people how careers in the sector require creativity and problem solving, and offer an exciting career pathway across a wide range of roles.

Aptitude over experience – make the application process easier for young people, especially the most disadvantaged

Young people without work experience are likely to find the job application process daunting and may even avoid a role that they are interested in, if they don’t think they are equipped with the skills for it. In fact, our research shows that 30% of those not interested in manufacturing jobs say that they don’t think they have the right skillset.

Removing barriers such as grade requirements for some qualifications and emphasising personality and attitude to work or offering to support travel expenses for placements and interviews is crucial in engaging young people into a diverse and inclusive workforce.

In order to see growth and success in this sector, the industry needs to ensure it has a thriving workforce to match its aspirations. To do this, employers need to do more to engage young people by portraying an industry that is accessible, varied in opportunities, and ready to invest in their futures.

Read more of our People & Skills articles here