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19 April, 2021

‘Skills shortage is having biggest negative impact on UK manufacturing’

23 May, 2012

A survey of 1,000 UK manufacturers has revealed that while 76% of them want to recruit more staff, 41% say they are struggling to find people with the right skills, with 63% finding recruitment of Chartered and Incorporated Engineers a particular issue.

When asked to name the factor having the biggest negative impact on investment in manufacturing, 8.2% of those polled said it was the skills shortage, followed by “lack of Government support” (7.4%). More than half of the manufacturers feel that the Government is performing badly on its manufacturing policy, with just 14% saying it is doing well.

In the survey, conducted for the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) during April, twice as many respondents said that Government policies aren’t helping them (41%), as those who think that they are (19%). In a similar survey in 2011, the split was 28%/23%.

Energy costs remain the biggest concern for UK manufacturers. More respondents (58%) said they were worried about energy costs than either the state of the UK economy (53%) or the Eurozone crisis (54%).

The results of the survey are published in the 2012 edition of the IMechE’s annual Manufacturing a Successful Economy report, which gauges the health of the manufacturing sector. The report also includes the results of a survey of 1,000 members of the public, 72% of whom felt that the Government is more committed to the financial sector than to manufacturing, with just 26% feeling that the Government is committed to rebalancing the economy towards manufacturing.

More than 75% of the manufacturers and 72% of the public polled said that the Government should favour UK-based companies when awarding contracts, even if this is a more expensive option.

“The UK’s manufacturing sector has the potential to spearhead economic recovery and lead the country towards growth,” says Philippa Oldham, the IMechE’s head of manufacturing, “yet in the past 12 months what was a steady rise in manufacturing growth has turned into a slow crawl.

“Rebalancing the economy towards manufacturing is not an easy task,” she adds, “however these polls make it clear that the Government’s policies to make it happen do not have the support of UK manufacturers or the general public.

“The results of these polls show that there is strong public support for Government to favour UK-based firms,” Oldham continues. “The Government is the UK’s largest consumer, and has the ability to decide which companies are awarded many of the UK’s largest manufacturing projects. The impact on UK jobs and the local economy must be made a key part of the criteria in deciding which firms are awarded Government contracts.

“The warm words about UK manufacturing we have been hearing over the past two years are starting to wear thin,” she concludes. “It’s time for the Government to engage with industry now to create a long-term industrial strategy that can put UK manufacturing, once the envy of the world, back on top.”

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