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Automation and digital advances will create better jobs in UK manufacturing but low-skilled workers need retraining into better roles to avoid job losses.

A third of UK manufacturers expect some low skilled jobs to be lost over the next five years as a result of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and digital technologies. But over half of companies (54%) say they will up-skill these workers to take the jobs that these new technological advances are going to create.

More than two thirds of manufacturers plan to spend some of their training budget over the next 12 months on technical engineering skills. Some of this will go on providing apprenticeships, which almost eight in ten employers currently offer, but the rest will be aimed at those existing employees who need to continuously up-skill for manufacturers to take best advantage of 4IR and the income boosts it can bring.

This is where the Government’s new National Retraining Scheme will come into play, but there needs to be some adjustment to the current trial specifications to make it properly effective for those workers who need that help.

Currently the scheme is being aimed at those employees whose jobs are at risk of being displaced as a result of AI and digitisation within their companies. But it fails to look at the fact that most companies want to retain their workers by up-skilling them to fill new jobs digital technologies will create or place these employees in other parts of the business.  This is the missing link in funding support and provision which the Government’s Scheme could help to fix.

The cost of retraining and up-skilling in manufacturing can be high, and the National Retraining Scheme, when properly rolled out across the country, needs to be widely available so that it includes those employers who wish to up-skill their current workers as well as those employees that find themselves in a position where they are looking for alternative employment.
Verity Davidge Head of Education and Skills Policy

Available resources

Skills / Skills policy / Industry report