14 February 2023
Mike Thornton, national head of manufacturing at RSM UK, said:
‘The Q4 data demonstrates stability within the manufacturing sector, with total jobs flat lining at 2.66m. Perhaps unsurprisingly, employment vacancies fell for the fourth month in a row residing at 78,000 compared to 89,000 in the summer.
‘Labour remains a major long-term concern for the sector, given the structural workforce issues in the UK and the ongoing war for talent. Attracting and retaining the best talent is critical for the sector and will ensure that manufacturers can lead the adoption of new technologies.
‘Manufacturing earnings increased by 2.9% year on year in Q4, well behind the 6.4% posted by employees within the economy as a whole. Whilst earnings are only one aspect of the employment relationship, the sector should be concerned by this disparity as a continuation of this trend will inevitably lead to further problems.’
He added: ‘Whilst much of the latest data suggests that economic conditions may not be as bad as feared a few months ago, the sector does need to address employment in the longer term. We would welcome an industrial strategy for the country which includes employment as an integral element.’
Steve Sweetlove, pay and people partner at RSM UK, said:
‘The manufacturing employment statistics show continuing labour shortages. The adoption of automation will be one of the solutions as manufacturers and government work to improve productivity, given the UK’s output per worker is lower than four of the G7 nations.
‘While there is tentative optimism and stabilisation in the sector, businesses should start to really focus on people strategies. Where possible, rather than get bogged down by operational issues, manufacturers need to keep their eyes on the horizon and future-proof their workforce. Key questions for employers to ask themselves are why would employees want to have a career in manufacturing, why would they want to join us as a company and why would they want to stay with us? Finding the answer to these questions will be fundamental to addressing the industry’s demographic dilemma, where the experience and knowledge of older workers isn’t being replenished by a new generation.’