Shortages in skilled workforce constraining the manufacturing sector


2017 has seen a strong year for the manufacturing sector, despite ongoing concerns such as skill shortages and Brexit uncertainty. Accounting for about 10% of the UK economy, it has seen a growth of 2.7% in 2017, however a shortage of trained employees is forecast to harm the economy over time.

Export levels have boomed since the pound fell in June 2016 after the Brexit decision, and there has been an increased demand from the strong European economies.

Recent months saw a positive reflection on car manufacturing in particular. Britain’s car factories helped to drive the manufacturing production to its longest period of growth in more than 20 years. In December 2017, on a broad scale, 14 out of 17 sub-sectors reported that their order books were above normal. 371 manufacturers felt that this above normal level was driven by motor vehicles, transport equipment and mechanical engineering sectors.

Whilst 2017 ended on a high for the manufacturing sector, there is speculation that the start of 2018 may begin to see a downfall for manufacturing production. British manufacturers have reported that they are faced with inflationary pressure, and that output prices are expected to rise over the beginning of 2018.

Samuel Tombs, the chief UK economist of Pantheon Marco, warns that “manufacturers are running at full capacity and can’t easily ramp up production in the near-term to meet higher demand”.

In response to these concerns, the government has pledged that they have an industrial strategy which in 2018 will aim to “support manufacturing and the wider economy in every corner of the UK” says Anna Leach, Head of Economic Intelligence for the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

The greatest concern remains in the undeniable skills shortage in the industry and with businesses across the economy planning to hire more workers in 2018, it begs the question of where they will find qualified, trained employees.

Neil Carberry, the CBI’s Managing Director, People Policy, comments: “It’s essential that businesses work to address skills gaps with colleges and other providers – but with high employment rates, domestic training alone can’t meet all our needs”.

iMET was established to focus on upskilling the workforce and new recruits in manufacturing alongside engineering and technology industries. We are working with employers to offer the much needed educational opportunities that truly meets the needs of the sectors we serve.  Launching in 2018 iMET, will be offering courses and higher level apprenticeships from its new state of the art facility in Alconbury Weald. iMET is here to support the manufacturing sector and available to work with employers on their employee development needs.

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Notes to Editors

Cambridge Regional College is the top FE college in the country for 16-18 year-old level 3 student achievement and the STEM Further Education College of the Year. It is a leading apprenticeship provider, with full-time and part-time courses, apprenticeships and higher education programmes, and 3,000 full-time students and 3,800 apprentices currently in training.