New analysis by Cranfield University has today revealed key skills shortages within manufacturing. The University’s report highlights that leadership, innovation and management are all non-technical skills, frequently cited as lacking within the manufacturing sector.

The report released today, at the National Manufacturing Debate, also reveals shortages of technical skills in the areas of robotics and artificial intelligence, software skills, data analysis and electronic and electrical engineering.

The information was gathered by the University after a systematic review and analysis of over 350 reports from Government, trade NGOs (Non-Governmental Organisations) and the media.

Analysis of the reports from Government and trade NGOs, such as EEF, reveal that 62% of reports mentioned a shortage of skills in robotics and artificial intelligence, 55% reveal a shortage of data analysis skills and 46% reveal a shortage of innovative skills.

The report points to five key reasons for skills shortages within manufacturing:

  • Young people in the UK have less interest in manufacturing related subjects;
  • Female employment in manufacturing is far less than male employment;
  • The perception that employees have lower income in the manufacturing sector;
  • The lack of applicants with the right skills to fill open posts; and
  • UK manufacturing has an ageing workforce which needs replacements quickly.

Analysis has also revealed that responsibility for addressing the skills shortage is not clearly defined, with employers looking to Government and Government looking to employers to address the issue.

The report’s key recommendations include:

  • Employers to work closely with Universities and Schools to design the curriculum
  • Government should encourage strategic use of the ‘apprenticeship levy’
  • Educational and engineering institutions should work together to raise awareness of manufacturing careers
  • Improvements should be made in the quality of manufacturing apprenticeships
  • Strategic overseas recruitment for short term to plug current skills gaps
  • All stakeholders of manufacturing should work together to tackle this sector wide challenge

The report’s contents will be discussed today at the eighth, annual National Manufacturing Debate hosted by Cranfield University.

Launching the National Manufacturing Debate White Paper 2017, Professor Rajkumar Roy, Director of Manufacturing at Cranfield, said:

 “This analysis shows that the sector faces some key challenges in skills development that will have long-term implications for manufacturing productivity in the UK. Our report also highlights a lack of clarity as to who is responsible for tackling this skills deficit with employers looking to Government and the Government looking to employers.

 “All of us involved in manufacturing, industry, schools and universities, must work together, as a matter of urgency to address this critical skills shortage.

 “We must implement industry, school and university collaboration to design the teaching curriculum, so that what is being taught reflects the latest developments in manufacturing. We should monitor our progress on this through OFSTED for schools and the Teaching Excellence Framework for universities.”

Notes for editors

Cranfield Manufacturing

We provide world-class and niche research, education, training and consultancy in manufacturing and play a key role in ensuring that the UK remains at the cutting edge of manufacturing research.

We are unique in our multi-disciplinary approach by bringing together design, technology and management insight. We are a driving force for both the rapid growth of established areas of manufacturing expertise and the development of new research areas.

Research partnerships are undertaken with more than 500 organisations of all sizes and disciplines and industry advisory panels ensure our graduates move seamlessly from the academic world into the world of work and provide skills the sector needs.

Our world-class facilities include the Ultra Precision Machining Laboratory, which houses a range of ultra-precision diamond turning machines and is the UK's national facility for large x-ray optics manufacture.

We lead two ESPRC centres for Innovation Manufacturing in Ultra Precision and Through-life Engineering Services.

About Cranfield University

Cranfield is an exclusively postgraduate university that is a global leader for education and transformational research in technology and management.

Manufacturing Doctoral Training Centre

This higher research degree is associated with our Manufacturing Doctoral Training Centre (DTC). The Manufacturing DTC encompasses ten major research themes that benefit from the clear synergy between engineering materials, manufacturing technology and manufacturing management, supported by a strong and fundamental engineering and science base. This provides a powerful combination of multidisciplinary skills that ensures both industrial relevance and academic rigor that builds on state-of-the-art industrial scale research and development facilities that differentiate the Cranfield activity from other universities.

A tailored programme of seminars and events alongside the generic core skills training programme, provide those studying a research degree with a wealth of social and networking opportunities with Cranfield’s wider research community.