The workforce crisis in UK manufacturing is well known. Repeated surveys show that some 80% of UK manufacturers struggle to recruit the talents they need to compete and anticipate increasing recruitment pressures linked to the pace of technological change. They are also struggling to access the quantity and quality of provision necessary to upskill their current workforce.
Recognising that the value of its work to support innovation would be undermined unless industry could access the skilled workforce needed to exploit new technologies, the High Value Manufacturing (HVM) Catapult, with partners from the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and TWI and support from the Gatsby Foundation, worked to identify and capture good practice on the development of the future workforce and how centres of innovation in other countries successfully contribute.
The Manufacturing the Future Workforce report, published today, finds that truly successful innovation is dependent on the availability of the right skills needed for its full exploitation. It warns that, without change, the UK’s current approach to workforce development will fail to deliver the skilled workers UK firms need to succeed in challenging markets.
Built from much greater connectivity between stakeholders, it recommends a new approach involving better foresighting and forecasting of future needs and making significant improvements to learning delivery.
The headline message is that centres of innovation have a unique contribution to make to a new Skills Value Chain.
Dick Elsy, Chief Executive of the HVM Catapult, said: "This report demonstrates how the HVM Catapult and other centres of innovation can convene resources and expertise to increase impact on national and local economies. We are keen to build an alliance with government, industry and education providers to provide the best workforce for future needs."
Stephen Phipson, Chief Executive of the manufacturing trade body Make UK, expressed support for the report. He said: "Make UK members anticipate significant skills challenges as they adopt new technologies and are concerned that they will not be able to access the training that they require. We support the recommendations of the report and will work with all stakeholders to develop a training system that works."
Ann Watson, Chief Executive of the employer-led engineering skills body Semta, also welcomed the report. She said: "The report’s powerful recommendations closely align with employer-identified needs for successful industrial digitalisation. We will work with the HVM Catapult and other centres of innovation to deliver the skills that our manufacturing industry needs."
The report highlights that there is a very real opportunity for the UK to catch up with and then secure a competitive advantage from its research and innovation communities.
The report’s recommendations set out a blueprint for the UK to do this, by leveraging those communities’ knowledge and understanding in a Skills Value Chain. From foresighting skills needs and supporting national standards to developing modular training and lifelong learning models, centres of innovation and industry can lead the way.
But the UK can only succeed if government stakeholders, industry and academia work together with a common purpose to equip the UK’s future manufacturing workforce.