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Today, EEF published its latest report – Reinventing the Manufacturing Workforce.

Manufacturers are facing both a turbulent but also revolutionary time. Brexit is now on the horizon, bringing with it challenges around access to people. Planning for these changes is vital, yet only a relatively small number of manufacturers have a workforce plan in place.

 Planning is crucial not just to prepare for these challenges but also to take advantage of future opportunities. Technological change has the potential to radically change the workplace in ways never before seen. People will be at the heart of this, adapting not only to new ways of working, but also to new work, requiring a step change in the way employers train their workforce and deploy their skills.


Manufacturers have over time proved themselves to be adaptable, innovative and resilient. They have the tools and talent to make to make a success of the rapidly changing work they face, but they need government’s backing in creating the right business environment and developing policies within which they can thrive.


Over the course of the next few weeks we will do some deep dive blogs onto some of the key themes, but to whet your appetite for what’s to come here are 6 key findings.


1. Just one-third (32%) of manufacturers have a workforce plan.

That means an overwhelming two-thirds don’t have a workforce plan. This is despite a greater need for companies to ensure that they have the right people with the right skills needing to navigate the many changes and challenges that lie ahead.



2. Two-thirds of manufacturers expect their workforce to increase in the next five years.

Two-thirds of manufacturers expect their workforce to increase in the next five years, with almost a quarter expecting an increase of between 6-10%. This is primarily driven by plans to introduce new products but also driven by the adoption of new technologies and techniques. This is an interesting one as it means as companies are taking advantage of 4IR, they are in fact creating jobs and employment opportunities – we will come back to this in a future blog.


3. 72% of manufacturers are introducing new or continuing to run formal apprenticeships to secure the skills they need for the future.

It’s no surprise to me that the manufacturing industry is continuing in its efforts to acquire the skills it needs for the future through apprenticeships. Graduate programmes seem to have taken a dip with just over a third (36%) pursuing this.



4. Almost half of manufacturers are revising their recruitment strategies to recruit workers from other industries and sectors with transferable skills

With a shrinking talent pool available and competition for skills fierce, manufacturers are broadening their recruitment options and seeking to recruit workers from other sectors and industries. To be successful, these workers need the right transferable skills – this is again a point we’ll pick up in the coming week – after all – what exactly are transferable skills for the manufacturing industry?


5. A wider range of flexible working practices are more likely to be offered to non-production than production employees

Flexible and agile ways of working bring with it many benefits, but in manufacturing the level of flexibility offered differs and can’t be found in every cornerstone of the manufacturing workplace. That’s not to say they don’t offer these forms of working – for production employees the focus tends to be on unpaid leave and part-time working. Compared to non-production employees which work from home on a regular basis.


6. Attracting and retaining employees is a big push for offering workplace flexibility

Three-quarters of manufacturers (74%) offer agile ways of working to retain existing employees and 56% offer flexible forms of working to make the their business more attractive to future employees. But it’s not just recruitment and retention that’s seen as beneficial – some 38% of manufacturers want to improve employee productivity by offering flexible working.


As you can imagine, we are covering a lot of ground in our report and so we’ve got a range of recommendations up our sleeve – some calls to action for manufacturers themselves and others for Government. If you can’t wait around for our next report, you can read the full report here.

Blog / Policy