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Manufacturing industry raises alarm on skills and training


The manufacturing industry has warned that unless more government focus is placed on boosting education and training opportunities, it is unlikely to fulfil hopes of driving future economic growth.

According to the Manufacturing Outlook survey for the second quarter of 2011 published by manufacturers’ organisation EEF and accountancy firm BDO, even though the economy as a whole “stagnated” over the last six months, manufacturing grew by a healthy 2.3% driven mainly by exports.
This situation led to a “record” jump in the number of vacancies in the sector, with recruitment intentions at +24 remaining strong into the next quarter. But the main problem that the industry faced in maintaining such growth levels was simply a lack of available skills.
Tom Lawton, BDO’s head of manufacturing, said: “The key issue is whether companies are able to meet their intentions and fill their vacancies with the highly-skilled workers they require. What we are witnessing among our client base is the willingness to recruit, but it’s often very difficult for employers to find people with the adequate skills to fit the role.”
This meant that the industry was facing a short-term problem that required a long-term solution. “To ensure the UK retains its competitive edge, the government must do more to emphasise education in engineering and manufacturing to guarantee its future workforce has the appropriate skills to deliver the sector’s needs,” Lawton said.
If workers did not receive suitable training, the only alternative was to automate systems and simply replace people with machines, Lee Hopley, the EEF’s chief economist told the Daily Telegraph.
“[The skills shortage] could limit their ability to expand. The alternative we have heard from companies is trying to automate where possible, but....making the investment in that equipment and getting it delivered takes additional time,” Hopley said.

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