New research has revealed that the country’s small and medium-sized manufacturers are planning to take on more staff in a bid to boost productivity and sales.
Of the almost 300 manufacturing SME leaders surveyed, more than half (53%) expressed their intention to hire more employees over the next six months.
This is 5% up on the past quarter and the highest figure reported for more than two years, illustrating a strong confidence in the marketplace despite continued uncertainty regarding Brexit and trade talks.
In other positive news, the latest National Manufacturing Barometer, conducted by SWMAS (part of Exelin Group) in partnership with Economic Growth Solutions, found that 60% of manufacturers saw an increase in sales, with 68% expecting orders to rise between now and the end of 2018.
Investment aspirations – while slightly down on the last report – are still healthy, with just under half (48%) planning to spend on new machinery and premises.
CEO of Exelin Group, Simon Howes commented: “The need to focus on recruitment comes as no surprise and reflects what manufacturers are telling us about their concerns around productivity and the availability of people.
“As we approach Brexit, it’s important to recognise that UK SME manufacturing is proving resilient. The analysis of the key trends and comments in this quarter’s Barometer points to firm intentions of growth, improved productivity and increasing profitability.”
Dean Barnes, regional director of Economic Growth Solutions, said: “It’s perhaps a symptom of the current political and uncertain economic climate that this latest survey highlights clear messages around the need for stability, diversification and exploring new ways of achieving goals.
“New markets, premises, products, service development, better machinery, increasing brand awareness and, most importantly, the recruitment of apprentices and skilled staff were all heavily referenced as part of the feedback we received from respondents.”
The National Barometer’s special focus this quarter found that – unsurprisingly – many SMEs lack skilled staff within their manufacturing teams, particularly with technical levels in design, general management and operational levels in sales and marketing.
Leaders also had concerns about the quality of staff training, the attitude of some new recruits, salary expectations and the cost and quality of recruitment.
Simon Howes concluded: “Small to medium sized manufacturers have retained a strong sense of pragmatic optimism and are clearly thinking of their pipeline of skilled and motivated employees when it comes to the stability and growth of their businesses.
“Moving closer to the new industrial and post-Brexit landscape, the need for a wide strategic view of productivity has never been so important.”