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apprenticesAttracting and retaining a younger workforce is an ongoing problem for UK manufacturers. The average age of manufacturing staff has climbed and it is not uncommon for over-40s to now make up the majority of employees within the sector.

Part of the problem could be generational. In a recent YouGov survey, the findings highlighted that manufacturers found millennials to be the most challenging to oversee, with 48 per cent of the sector saying they struggled most with this generation. 

With 75 per cent of manufacturers recently confirming that they were ‘concerned about an ageing workforce’ in RSM’s Manufacturing Monitor report, the sector could be facing a future resource issue if businesses continue to struggle to recruit the younger generation and then manage them effectively once in place. 

So, manufacturers must solve two clear issues in order to avoid long-term challenges. They must find a way to attract the next generation of employees but equally they must not forget to engage with the workforce that they currently have. 

Often manufacturers prioritise lean processes and good cashflow management and forget to examine how they achieved their position in the first place. In fact, 26 per cent of manufacturing businesses surveyed suggested that they had not engaged with their employees recently, if at all. These statistics were the lowest recorded across all sectors including financial services, TMT, construction and consumer

Employees are an organisation’s most important asset and by paying close attention to employee engagement, manufacturers can boost productivity and increase talent retention within their business. 

Attracting younger workers with future-fit skills is also critical. There are many opportunities for the sector to promote itself as a dynamic modern environment to work in. Communicating the role of digital advances in manufacturing, such as robotics, as well as product innovations will help change negative perceptions and spark interest in the sector.  Meanwhile manufacturers must engage schools and colleges early or risk losing out to other sectors, particularly as the war on talent is likely to intensify post Brexit

Initiatives, such as the Leeds Manufacturing Festival, will play an increasingly important role in appealing to young people. Through opening the doors of manufacturers, it will not only lift the lid on modern manufacturing, dispel any myths and showcase the strength of the UK’s manufacturing sector, but it is hoped that it will inspire more young people to consider a career in manufacturing.   

The ‘millennial problem’ must be viewed as an opportunity for manufacturing businesses. Employee engagement surveys are the best place to start in terms of measuring current levels of engagement with the existing workforce. A strong brand proposition that clearly communicates who they are and what they stand for will enable the culture and value of a manufacturing business to be properly communicated to younger workers. 

Our New Forces at Work campaign offers advice and guidance on how to best engage and manage cross generational workforces – you can discover more here.

Manufacturers must focus on people as a priority. 



Category partner: Business Growth and Strategy Award

Blog / Policy / Apprenticeships