Technically challenged | EEF

Technically challenged: What are today's manufacturing skills gaps?

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The EEF Skills Report 2016 uncovered that technical, leadership and people management were the top skills gaps faced by UK manufacturers. This continued interest in both production-related technical and management skills underscores manufacturers’ commitments to investing in the latest technology and machinery as well as a desire to nurture workforce productivity and effectively manage organisational change.


Manufacturers’ plans for the future hinge on their ability to access these skills; however, almost three-quarters of companies are concerned about finding the skills their businesses need. Moreover, the majority of companies say they have struggled to fill engineering positions, because the applicants lack the right technical skills.

So how can companies tackle these key skills gaps? Here are a few ideas:

Develop a ‘Talent Pipeline’

Rather than only looking externally for engineering talent, manufacturers should look at their current roster and think about how training could help take employees to the next level. Have trouble finding line managers? Do your current professional development programmes include effective management training and a coaching programme? Are your current managers effectively brainstorming and implementing continuous improvement programmes? Perhaps it’s time for a Lean refresher.

Some manufacturers believe a new piece of machinery or leadership vacancy necessitates the recruitment of someone outside the organisation. However, there are technical training centres that offer a wide variety of courses on machinery use to help up-skill existing employees. Similarly, there are already skills development paths in place to help potential leaders achieve qualifications, such as ILM or CMI


Start or reinvigorate an apprenticeship programme

As many manufacturers see their top management looking to retire in the next decade and beyond, they are worried about bringing in the new faces to replace them. Forward-thinking companies of all sizes are instituting apprenticeship programmes to train their next leaders in their own processes and technology.

Go bespoke

Every company has different skills gaps and creating a career development pathway for the many types of employees these businesses have can be daunting for HR or training managers. Consider consulting with a training provider who can create a customised development plan to meet the skills needs of your business. Some of these providers will even conduct all the necessary training and qualification assessments at your facilities, to minimise work disruption and make the training as practical and company-focused as possible.

EEF works with employers across the UK to train and develop their talent to meet their skills gap. For more information on our course and bespoke training offerings, email or call 0808 168 5874.


This person has now left EEF. Please contact us on 0808 168 1874 or email us at if you have any questions.

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