Investment in skills increasing, but shortages still a concern, EEF says

Posted on 12 Nov 2012

UK manufacturers are increasing investment in response to greater demand for more highly skilled employees but many are reporting skills shortages, according to a survey by manufacturers’ organisation EEF and JAM Recruitment.

Companies are increasing investment in training, apprenticeships and the development of better links with schools and FE colleges. However, only a minority of manufacturers are reporting that the government’s efforts to create a simpler demand-led skills system have made it easier for them to invest in the skills that they need.

According to EEF, manufacturers’ growing need for technical skills –skill needs are expected to increase in next three years, in production (60%), craft and technician (58%) and R&D technical (41%) – calls for more ambitious apprenticeships programmes and for more actions to ensure that more young people are leaving education with good grades in key subjects like English and Maths. 76% of respondents to the survey prioritise qualifiations in maths and English when recruiting apprentices.

Tim Thomas, head of employment and skills policy at EEF, said: “Despite the government’s best efforts, investing in apprenticeships and finding the right qualifications, training courses and provider is still far from straightforward. It’s time to go further and put employers in the driving seat by giving them the power to set the standards for their industry, the scope to decide how to train their apprenticeships and by routing public funding for training through the firms that invest in it.”

John Morris, CEO of JAM Recruitment, also commented:

“Over the last few years, we have seen the definition of what is considered to be a ‘hard-to-fill’ position widen at an alarming rate. To remain internationally competitive, UK manufacturing needs a skilled, flexible labour force.”

Over half of the respondents to the survey said their training spend had increased in the past two years and six in ten said it would increase in the next two. Seven in ten companies offer work experience to young people with others offering factory visits, internships and placements.

Furthermore, manufacturers are investing significantly in apprenticeships, with three quarters of companies having started manufacturing or engineering apprenticeships in the past 12 months, with most lasting four years.

Whilst the investment by manufacturers is significant, the survey shows there would also be substantial payback for government by increasing the subsidy for apprenticeships as three quarters of companies offer all their apprentices full time employment on their completion.

However, only a small minority of manufacturers report an improvement in the training market in terms of the relevance of vocational qualifications, the responsiveness of providers or the ease of finding appropriate courses and access to funding.