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Tackling skills shortages in UK manufacturing

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The struggle to recruit skilled workers is a recurring concern within the UK manufacturing industry. Earlier this year an EEF report revealed three-quarters of manufacturers have struggled to recruit skilled workers in the last three years. This doesn’t reflect the situation at Fanuc UK, who receives in excess of 50 applications for every vacancy and over 30 for most apprenticeship posts advertised, said Andy Armstrong, UK sales and marketing manager.

“At Fanuc we believe that our success in attracting young engineering talent can be attributed to our longstanding commitment to engage with local schools, colleges and universities. Open days, internships and work experience placements, combined with social media activities and attendance at career fairs have all helped to remove the stigma that manufacturing is a low paid, unexciting and mundane work environment. 

“Our view is that young people today view engineering pathways within the automation sector as an enticing career with stability and long term prospects,“ said Armstrong. 

For many applicants, apprenticeships are regarded as a cost effective way to undertake training and gain professional qualifications. Significant investments by the government and well-established career institutions like SEMTA have helped to shake off the historic perceptions of apprenticeships among young people. That said, I do think young people struggle to gain impartial advice and it’s not consistent throughout the UK. Consequently, students are not always well informed about their options.  Local enterprises are left to shape their own local provision, so the responsibility very much falls at the feet of employers themselves. 

Brexit has naturally created uncertainty for employers with regard to the apprenticeship levy, and this may deter employers from offering a programme in the future. Alan Johnson, head of Labour In for Britain, warned around 50,000 manufacturing apprenticeships in the UK are dependent on exports to the EU: “If we suffer a prolonged recession during the negotiation, we may very well see apprenticeship numbers fall. Creating even more skills shortages.” 


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