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Future of Manufacturing Q4 2022

More opportunities unlock talent for the manufacturing industry

iStock / Getty Images Plus / John Wildgoose

Dr Hilary Leevers

Chief Executive, Engineering UK

We must do more to ensure that young people understand and appreciate the rewarding careers manufacturing offers and motivate employers to help young people into those careers.

Over 36% of the engineering workforce is employed in manufacturing, and demand for the technical skills needed in those roles remains significant. This gives great career prospects for young people with the right skills and training.  

Raising awareness of opportunities 

Across the industry, and particularly in manufacturing, vocational routes that combine classroom learning with industry experience have a huge part to play. Unfortunately, the number of engineering and manufacturing apprenticeship starts in England has nearly halved since 2016 and awareness of T Levels — a new route into engineering — is worryingly low. 

Only 16% of engineering professionals in manufacturing are women.

Inspiring the engineers of today and tomorrow 

Young people, their teachers, parents and carers as well as employers must be aware of T Levels and understand how they work. Yet, when we surveyed young people, only a third of them said they know what T Levels are. 

Our joint research with Make UK shows that less than a third of engineering and manufacturing employers have heard of T levels and understand what they involve. Employers will be essential to the success of these qualifications; not only do they have to recognise and value them, but they will also play a critical role in providing work placements for students.  

We estimate that up to 43,500 industry placements will be needed in the engineering, manufacturing and digital sectors by 2025, so there’s much to be done. 

Creating a more diverse industry 

We need a high-profile awareness campaign to promote T Levels. We must also do more to reach young people from groups underrepresented in engineering, so they can see themselves working in the industry. Only 16% of engineering professionals in manufacturing are women, and just 10% of those taking engineering and manufacturing apprenticeships are from ethnic minorities.  

More positively, we work with hundreds of employers across the country who seek to encourage young people from all backgrounds to consider working in engineering. And those employers are committing to collaborating to deliver high-quality schools engagement. If we can extend this effort to supporting T levels, we have a chance of securing the breadth and depth of talent that UK manufacturing needs to thrive. 

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