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Future of Manufacturing Q4 2022

Driving economic growth by meeting the skills needs of UK businesses

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Bhavina Bharkhada

Head of Policy and Campaigns, Make UK

We’ve often heard about the chronic skills shortage facing the manufacturing sector. But as a result of a combination of factors — from Brexit to the Covid-19 pandemic — the sector now faces an immediate labour shortage.


The Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimates show there are currently 91,000 vacancies in the manufacturing sector — even higher than in the construction sector.

With immigration as a lever that the Government remains reluctant to use, one of the solutions the Government is turning to is the new T Levels.

Industry placement for students

T Levels are two-year, technical qualifications at Level 3, aimed at students aged 16. They combine technical knowledge and practical skills, by including an industry placement of at least 45 days with one or two employer(s), that students have to complete — and the industry placement element is crucial.

The appeal of vocational and technical education for the manufacturing sector does not come from the ability to ‘train quickly,’ but rather, the need to develop a pipeline of talent with the right combination of technical skills and in-work experience, over time.

Despite the clear advantages, the take-up of T Levels has been slow — particularly the number of employers offering the industry placement for students. Make UK research, in partnership with EngineeringUK, found that currently, only one in ten (9%) of engineering and manufacturing employers is hosting a T Level placement and just 12% plan to in the coming year.

T Levels are two-year, technical qualifications
at Level 3, aimed at students aged 16.

More work experience

We stand little chance of reducing the labour shortage unless we can encourage more manufacturers to take on a T Level student and offer an industry placement.

In addition to providing an entry point for future apprentices and skilled workers to the sector, learners can make an immediate contribution to the workplace, working on particular projects or aspects of work during their 45 days with an employer. This provides students with invaluable work experience and offers businesses an extra pair of hands where they’re needed.

Helping the economy

The pipeline to engineering and manufacturing careers is lacking in more than just numbers. We need to make these pathways as accessible as possible to young people of all backgrounds, to ensure that we are meeting the future skills needs of UK businesses.

If we are serious about kickstarting economic growth — it begins with connecting people with these opportunities.

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