UK manufacturers must help inspire the next generation of workers by making careers in the sector as appealing and rewarding as possible, and investing in a positive culture and in people development.
Angela Chidley, head of talent and organisational development at Encirc, discusses how
When promoting manufacturing as a viable career path for young people, it’s vitally important to understand how their expectations have shifted over the past 10 to 15 years.
Globalisation, social media and widespread digitisation within almost all aspects of life has meant prospective manufacturing professionals are no longer settling for just an honest job which pays the bills.
Young people are becoming increasingly aware of the huge number of manufacturing opportunities available across the world.
They can find them instantly by searching the web, browsing social platforms, or talking to specialist recruiters.
Even though the UK is currently the ninth largest manufacturing nation in the world, more than 80% of manufacturers are reporting difficulties in finding the right staff, according to the British Chamber of Commerce.
Despite all the ambiguity around Brexit and what (if anything) happens on October 31 this year, it’s certain that if we are to remain in this position, we need to take control of the skills shortage, attracting and retaining the best workforce.
To do this we, as UK manufacturers, need to inspire the next generation of workers by making careers in the sector as appealing and rewarding as possible.
This is part of a series of articles about the skills crisis facing the UK manufacturing sector.
The series examines some of the serious problems affecting skills and training – and some of the positive initiatives aimed at producing a manufacturing workforce fit for the future.
Building an appealing culture
So, what are younger jobseekers looking for when they set out into the vast and global landscape of manufacturing opportunities?
As an employer in Northern Ireland and the North West of England, Encirc believes that building a culture of wellbeing is one of the most crucial elements of creating an attractive workplace.
Once this is established, it will form the foundation for everything else to come together around a common purpose.
Our entire business model revolves around the central idea that we are committed to making a positive impact upon the world around us.
We are champions of sustainability, workforce wellbeing, and responsible but innovative manufacturing. These principles form the bedrock of a culture in which all our employees feel directly invested.
Having a strong ethical foothold is something we recognise that young people are seeking when choosing to apply for jobs.
As a society, we’re becoming much more environmentally-conscious and future-thinking when it comes to our own impact. We have the younger generations to thank for spearheading this movement, and it’s important that modern workplaces reflect this.
Investing in a secure future
However, you cannot build an appealing, ethical and sustainable culture with aspirational words and empty promises. It needs significant amounts of strategic investment in several key areas.
Despite some overzealous headlines, we believe the next generation of UK jobs will not be automated but will be done by humans working alongside the most cutting-edge robotic technology.
Young people need security and they can find that in a company that actively stays ahead of the curve by investing in equipment which doesn’t replace them but gives them the skills they need to work in a modern Industry 4.0-ready factory.
This was the thinking behind recent investments in automated technology on our lines at Encirc.
Our cobots – collaborative robots designed to work alongside human employees – are designed to lubricate our product moulds while they are still running, in a fraction of the time of their human co-workers.
They detect the presence of humans and work slowly to mitigate safety concerns.
Since the cobots were introduced, our employees spend more time monitoring operations, our productivity has improved and so have our levels of health and safety. The proportion of production lost per hour has fallen from 2.2% on manually swabbed lines to 1%.
Ready for Industry 4.0
Following the successful roll out of these machines, Encirc has also recently invested in the world’s first ‘Industry 4.0-ready’ glass production line.
The new line will have ground-breaking technology installed and will see the plant’s hot end (where bottles are produced) digitally connected to the cold end (where bottles are inspected).
This will make use of inbuilt intelligent swabbing, laser identification marking, and state-of the art inspection machines, which will be fully integrated to work alongside human operators.
The technology will significantly improve health and safety for operators while also increasing our plant’s efficiency.
Manufacturing roles are changing, they’re becoming increasingly focused on electrical maintenance rather than mechanical. Jobseekers know they must gain experience in these areas if they are to safeguard their career paths.
It’s cutting-edge investments like these which manufacturers can use to show prospective young employees how their business is both future-proofing and upskilling its workforce.
Training on, and working with, this kind of automated technology in the real-world, means our employees are simultaneously investing in their own career development opportunities.
A positive, productive workforce
To appeal further to prospective employees, investments on the factory floor need to be complemented by measures that actively promote wellbeing and a positive work/life balance.
Workplace-related stress and mental health issues are becoming a bigger concern than ever, and young people are some of the most susceptible in society.
We invest in mental health first aider training to support those who may be feeling pressure or anxiety. As well as this, we actively promote mental strength training to help employees develop the skills they need to build resilience and set achievable goals.
To further aid wellbeing in the workplace, we’ve also built an onsite gym available for all employees to use at our site in Derrylin, with another currently under construction at our factory in Cheshire. The free-to-access gyms give employees a convenient outlet to meet their physical exercise goals.
With so much uncertainty ahead, as a sector we need to ensure that our factories and sites across the country remain attractive to the next generation of manufacturing professionals.
By investing in a positive culture, innovative technology, people development and an ethical business model, we can continue to draw in talent from home and around the world.
Encirc Glass manufactures glass containers for some of the world’s most recognised brands. Ongoing investment in our production facilities and operations in Ireland and the UK allows us to produce high-quality products for our customers.
As well as manufacturing glass containers, Encirc is the only company to offer a fully comprehensive range of services throughout the supply chain.