The Manufacturer Podcast: No quick fix to the skills gap

Posted on 8 Apr 2022 by Tom St John

Messrs Tom, Joe and Lanna on the editorial team return for the final episode of this current podcast series on Skills & People. The team examine how young talent, education at scale and partnership, among other aspects, could be a factor in bridging the UK skills gap.

Hi there listener – it’s the last episode in our Skills & People series! We’re brining this episode to you from the Birmingham NEC, where we attended the MACH Exhibition 2022.

We’ve got an interview from Professor Ken Young at The Manufacturing Technology Centre. (MTC) He discusses the problem of getting younger people engaged with engineering and manufacturing and how skills shortage will never truly be lessened unless the industry can find ways to do more.

Dr Gillian Murray from Heriot Watt University also chats about the issue of the skills gap, and outlines four main areas of future focus that she believes will be vital to addressing the problem.

In the middle of these two interviews, the editorial team will be looking back on what has been a truly enjoyable, informative, inspiring and fun series on skills & people.

We hope you enjoy this final episode of the Skills and People Series


Professor Ken Young, Technology Director at MTC on the skills gap and young people

Ken Young, MTC

 “My feeling is that when kids get to school leaving age they really struggle to work out what they want to do with their lives. In reality, they haven’t really seen what the scope of opportunities are.  As a young person, you’ve been to school, you’ve probably been to the doctors or dentists and you’ve seen shopkeepers. Much beyond that, you’ve got no idea what other people’s jobs are. You’re unaware of how fun certain jobs are, what challenges you have to overcome.

“I believe that engineers will get us out of global warming,  so we’ve got to get the best people that we can in to engineering. Unless they know what it’s about, and what impact they can have in the role, then they’re probably going to go off and train to be doctors or dentists. I just don’t think the engineering profession sells itself as well as we need it to.”

Dr Gillian Murray, Heriot Watt University

Dr Gillian Murray, Deputy Principal of Business and Enterprise on the steps needed to ease the skills gap

“I don’t think their will be one quick fix that will solve the skills gap. Personally I think there are four key areas we have to focus on in the future”


“I think we need to address leadership within organisations. In this rapidly changing world around digitisation and decarbonisation we need specialised but learning agile leaders capable of driving transformation.”

Diversity of talent

“An area very close to my own heart – we have to be thinking about diversifying the talent base in the future. A really positive result from the reduced need of physical labour is the fall in gender stereotyping. So, there should be a lot more opportunities for ladies in manufacturing. But also for all sorts of diversity across the board – i.e. support for disabled workers.”

Education at scale

“This isn’t a discussion of one form of education or the other. Vocational against academic, short courses against degrees – we’re really going to need it all!”


Partnership between industry skills providers and governments is going to be absolutely critical. Many organisations, particularly in the US, are driving forward massive partnerships with education providers.

“Then in the Netherlands, Tata Steel have established an advanced analytical academy to help train hundreds of engineers on the application of  new analytical approaches to manufacturing. Using this approach, they’ve actually boosted their earnings by more than 15%. Despite significant cost pressures across the global steel sector.”

Listen back to the previous episode of this series