The proportion of UK manufacturers experiencing recruitment difficulties has increased gradually over the past few years. Sue Parr, business development director at WMG, University of Warwick, asks how we can address the problem.
Despite growth in the economy, the manufacturing sector is still experiencing recruitment difficulties.
Different reasons are cited: a lack of relevant skills in potential candidates; an increasingly competitive recruitment market combined with an increase in labour turnover, seen in 2014, and reversing the previous steady decline; and loss of skills through retirement.
In a recent CIPD survey, manufacturing was one of the sectors that reported particular challenges in filling vacancies, although three-quarters of the 520 organisations across all sectors surveyed reported they had experienced recruitment difficulties and challenges retaining talent.
More and more experienced employees are retiring each year, and the UK requires 830,000 new engineers over the next eight years purely to replace workers reaching retirement.
For the manufacturing sector, this loss of skills combined with the challenges employers already face in recruiting and retaining talent only increases the impetus for effective talent management.
Nearly half of the private sector increased their talent management spend last year.
Nearly half of respondents to the CIPD’s survey are making efforts to develop more talent in-house, while just a third are focusing more on retaining rather than recruiting talent.
The most common practices organisations employ to alleviate recruitment difficulties include sponsoring relevant professional qualifications, ‘up-skilling’ existing employees, and recruiting candidates from different sectors or industries.
Larger organisations are also focusing on developing more apprenticeship schemes for post-GCSE or A level. Companies can also develop existing staff in this way, by providing access to an education which offers the right skills for the business, as they can select candidates internally from both talented apprentices and longer-serving individuals with, for example, an aptitude for engineering.
The increasing number of degree apprenticeships being offered across the UK are specifically aimed at high-potential school leavers.
For the young person, these programmes provide an opportunity to earn and learn and therefore avoid or reduce their student debt.
For the organisation, it provides the opportunity to train entrants in the specific skills that are needed across their business.
One great example of this is the Jaguar Land Rover Academy, which provides a wide variety of training for employees at all levels through strategic partnerships with universities.
Those signing up to degree apprenticeships with the company are able to earn a Bachelor of Engineering degree from the University of Warwick as part of WMG’s Applied Engineering Programme.
As well as gaining a broad grounding in engineering at the same time as working for and providing value to the company, the student is able to specialise in areas relevant to their career plans and also JLR’s business needs.
The employees gain an applied degree without building up student debt, and the company knows it is developing its staff in the right direction, with the skills it will need for the future.
But it’s not just larger organisations that can make themselves more attractive to new recruits. Smaller businesses can already work with academic institutions to access new technologies and gain business support to gain competitive advantage.
WMG has an excellent track record in assisting small and medium-sized companies in this way, and has extended its assistance into innovation and leadership education programmes.
Its Innovation Business Leadership Programme, for example, was designed to meet the needs of fast moving SMEs that rely on innovation for competitive advantage.
These companies recognise that enhancing their leadership and management skills will help them to grow the business further, retain their managers, and ultimately bring in more staff.
Delegates have an opportunity to network with peers, develop their skills, and think differently and more strategically about their business.
In the manufacturing sector, we need to make our positions as attractive as possible. If the new entrants to the labour market don’t have the skills we need, how can we make it easier for them to gain them, and moreover how can we make them see this as an attractive option?
By investing in talent development, and showing that we care about our people, we can, in time, make our sector attractive to those considering their future career plans.