What would get more young people into manufacturing?

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UK manufacturers make racing cars, jets, space crafts, the Olympic cauldron – yet continue to struggle to get young people interested in the industry.

The latest UKCES Employer Skills Survey found that just 42% of manufacturers had recruited a young person, which in part highlights this challenge.

Those manufacturers that do recruit young people tell us they are the lifeblood of their business, they have the potential to come up with the ideas for the future, designing cars for tomorrow or thinking of new ways to generate cleaner, greener power.

We know from previous surveys that manufacturers work hard to encourage to get young people into their industry, whether this is through offering work experience, giving talks in schools or bring school pupils into their factories or onto their sites. This gives manufacturers the chance to showcase just what they do and what the next generation of manufacturing employees could be working on.

But what would get more young people into manufacturing?

This is a question we recently asked our members, and today we look at the results:

80% of employers think raising awareness of apprenticeships will get young people into manufacturing

With two-thirds of our members currently offering apprenticeships, it's a sure route into the industry. The challenge however is getting more young people to consider the apprenticeship route. Research by the Royal Academy of Engineering found that whilst almost half of parents of children aged 11-18 would encourage their offspring to take an apprenticeship, more than one in 10 still maintain that apprenticeships are a second best route to a career after a degree.

63% of manufacturers think STEM-focused initiatives between schools and businesses will encourage young people into manufacturing

There are an array of schemes on offer – Primary Engineer, F1 in Schools, EDT, Smallpiece Trust – too many to list here. We recently called on Government to bring together such schemes on a single portal. The Department for Business are now working towards including such programmes on the Make it Great Britain website, allowing businesses to seek information on such schemes and choose which is best for them. Whilst this is a positive step forward, this tackles only part of the challenge, as we need to encourage schools to get engaged also. Therefore we need to tackle the real, and perceived, barriers that continue to exist between schools and local industry engagement.

60% of manufacturers think schools giving young people specific careers advice will help get young people into manufacturing

Careers provision has come under fire, to say the least. The Education Committee found the quality and quantity of guidance for young people is deteriorating and Oftsed found that of the 60 schools they visited, only 12 had ensured that all students received sufficient information to consider a wide breath of career possibilities. We have been calling for a form of ‘careers inspiration' to begin in schools, with more informed advice given at Key Stage 3. Then by Key Stage 4 all young people should have access to face-to-face advice from an independent advisor.

33% said bringing back compulsory work experience pre-16 would encourage more young people into manufacturing.

The decision to remove compulsory work experience at Key Stage 4, was somewhat a knee-jerk decision that followed the Wolf Review of Vocational Education. Instead of abolishing it, Government should have worked to focus on the quality of delivery, as many of our members found it highly effective. Work experience at Key Stage 4 and 5 is highly beneficial and should be encouraged at both – giving young people a taster to a specific career such as manufacturing.

28% of employers think increasing the number of University Technical Colleges will get more young people into manufacturing

The roll out of University Technical Colleges (UTCs) has begun, with the majority specialising in STEM. UTCs provide a great pathway for young people into manufacturing careers, by providing learners with a combination of academic and vocational qualifications combined with work experience. What makes the UTCs work for manufacturers is that the content of provision is driven by local industry experts. Such industry interaction is beneficial to the learner in securing employment, and gives companies a pipeline of potential future recruits.

28% of businesses think introducing Tech-Levels will get more young people into manufacturing

Manufacturers have continued to call for a vocational route that is put on the same parity of esteem of A-levels. Tech-Levels present such an opportunity. Such qualifications will only be available if they are endorsed by employers, ensuring they are relevant to the industry (remembering that only one in five manufacturers think that vocational qualifications are more relevant now than two years ago).

25% of manufacturers saw publishing data on school and college leavers as a way to get more young people into manufacturing

The introduction of destination measures will mean schools are beginning to provide such information. This will then show the successes young people have pursuing routes such as Apprenticeships. This will hopefully go some way to overcoming the perceptions of vocational pathways which the RAE found still exist.

So those were a few ideas from our members, and we expect they would have plenty more. If we could just start taking these forward, perhaps the next UKCES Employer Skills Survey would see a significant increase in the numbers of manufacturers recruiting a young person.


Head of Education & Skills Policy

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