Traditional sectors have a huge opportunity to reinvent

Posted on 2 Oct 2019 by The Manufacturer

It's been revealed that certain UK regions might struggle to compete in the coming years. Thankfully, there is a way forward. And it all starts with skills, as Martin Hottass, Group Director – Technical Training, at City & Guilds Group explains.

Last week, Make UK and BDO’s latest Regional Manufacturing Outlook offered a conflicted view on the economic state of the UK’s regional manufacturing industries.

While some regions, like the South East, are thriving with investment in new and growing manufacturing industries, other regions with more traditional industries, such as the North East, are more vulnerable to market pressures.

Men during precision work on production line - image courtesy of Depositphotos.

And, as Steven Phipson from Make UK points out, with certain regions more exposed to trade with the EU, these economies could be impacted even further by no-deal exit.

The thought that certain UK regions might struggle to compete in the coming years – losing jobs, factories or whole industries – is worrying to say the least. But, thankfully, for businesses looking to keep up with the pace of change, there is a way forward. And it all starts with skills.

Investing in the future

When it comes to investing in new products to adapt to change, today, the main thing businesses need is skilled labour-force. With intimate knowledge of their industry already under their belts, traditional manufacturing businesses have a huge opportunity to reinvent themselves, remain relevant and attract additional investment.

By ensuring their staff obtain new skills and develop expertise in innovative methods and technology in their field, manufacturers can transform themselves in their traditional sectors.

A great example of a changing industry is automotive manufacturing. Although cars and engines have evolved over the past 100 years, the basic principles remain largely unchanged in today’s petrol cars. But thanks to rapid advances in technology, times are changing.

Electric vehicles are on the rise; as they become more widely available, car manufacturers’ imperatives and production methods will continue to evolve – and employers will face an increasing demand for workers that not only have a good understanding of the industry, but can also work with the new technologies underpinning the future of road transport.

Learning with style

In order to help the manufacturing workforce to develop the skills it needs to succeed in the future, employers need to realise that everyone has a different learning style, and people pick up new skills and knowledge most effectively if you give then the opportunity to learn in their preferred way.

Indeed, a City & Guilds Group study carried out earlier this year found that 16% of employees in the manufacturing sector have found the poor variety of available courses and training options to be a barrier to learning new skills in their workplace.

And, beyond traditional classroom and on-the-job training, there are other learning and development methods still untapped for this industry.

For instance, although 32% of manufacturing employees would say coaching and mentoring is one of the most effective ways to develop workplace skills, half this number (16%) actually received coaching or mentoring over the past year.

It’s evident that manufacturing employers need to modernise their approach to upskilling their workforce, and develop more holistic training programmes that enable employees to learn in more personalised ways.

Pharmaceutical factory worker - image courtesy of Depositphotos.

A risk worth taking

Looking ahead to what skills workforces will need in order to future-proof businesses, it’s clear that digital skills will play a central role. Manufacturers in more traditional industries need to consider how digital technologies will affect their industry and invest in the digital capability that will ensure their relevance in a changing market.

Investing in innovation and upskilling the workforce may be a challenging undertaking, but it’s high reward. In exchange for planning ahead and shifting the skills base of their workforce, manufacturers can create opportunities, value and profit that will stand them in good stead for navigating uncertain times ahead.

About the research

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,303 workers. The manufacturing sector total sample size was 125 workers. Fieldwork was undertaken between 9-11 January 2019. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

*All images courtesy of Depositphotos