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Recruiting for the manufacturing skills you need today and the skills you will need tomorrow

07/05/19 Brett Longden Senior Consultant, Electronics & Technology

A profound digital transformation is currently shaping the future of the manufacturing sector. As with any transformation, the opportunities for growth are enormous - but so are the challenges for today’s manufacturing employers. Whilst general optimism and confidence around the UK sector prevails, we’re certainly in uncharted territory. Manufacturers who will thrive over the coming years are those who prepare themselves to be agile and who have a robust growth and recruitment strategy built on solid foundations.

The UK’s manufacturing industry has huge potential to improve efficiency, reduce costs and create new business models that can drive competitive advantage. By 2025, it’s estimated that the global worth of Internet of Things technology will reach $6.2 trillion.

According to the Annual Manufacturing Report (AMR), 74% of manufacturing businesses feel they need to adopt digital technologies in order for their businesses to prosper but feel their current workforce is designed to only solve yesterday’s problems. This has led to the UK’s manufacturing employers demanding even more manufacturing engineers with the skills to satisfy current industry requirements.

Brett Longden, Recruitment Consultant for Redline discusses further: “The UK must equip its workforce with a broader range of skills for future manufacturing jobs. Manufacturing businesses need to empower their existing employees by helping to add to their skills set and further their digital expertise throughout their careers.”

Brett continues: “Positioning a business for growth means looking to the future and adopting new methodologies, all of which should be underpinned by new technologies. Unless you have real-time visibility and insight into your business, you can’t make the necessary decisions to drive that growth trajectory. Increasingly more of the data informing your decisions will come from embedded analytics and connected devices, so it’s paramount for manufacturers have a modern enterprise resource planning (ERP) foundation to support the innovative technologies which enable real-time reporting, analytics, automation and the Internet of Things.”

The issue of skills and training should be at the forefront of manufacturing businesses’ concerns. Businesses need to train and develop their existing workforce in order to remain competitive. This can be achieved by doing the following:

  • Learning how to apply ‘design thinking’ and greater interpersonal skills to traditional problems. 
  • Use the right digital tools to research in order to design smarter.
  • Continually monitor, research, absorb and apply new skills and technologies to the constant mix of challenges and opportunities that manufacturers face daily.
  • Leverage social platforms and coding skills to connect with customers directly and change the experience of buying, owning and operating products.

Skills, training and recruitment represent the most pressing items on most manufacturers’ agenda. The UK effectively lost a generation of manufacturers after the deindustrialisation of the 70s and 80s. However, manufacturing businesses need to move forward by stepping outside of tradition; stop focusing on the problems and explore new ways of bringing new skills into their business.

At Redline, we’re seeing more and more companies starting their own training centres, either on their own or as a collaboration with other local companies. The Catapult Centres, funded by the government are also designed to transform the UK’s capability for innovation in specific areas and help drive future economic growth. The seven centres offer access to world-class equipment, expertise and collaborative opportunities for a wide variety of manufacturing businesses of all sizes and from all sectors.

Businesses need to ensure they have a comprehensive recruitment strategy to attract, develop and retain talent critical to their manufacturing business in order to grow and innovate.

Listed below are a few suggestions that draw on authentic, modern manufacturing experiences, which may help employers to acquire the skills and knowledge necessary to add value to each stage of the manufacturing process.

Educational courses: A thirst for knowledge is growing in the manufacturing sector – and this is set to intensify in 2019 as humans struggle to keep up with the increasing capabilities of technology. Certain areas of manufacturing are progressing so fast that a skills shortage has emerged, with people lacking the digital expertise to operate and utilise these tools effectively.

Best practice visits: You can learn as much from other businesses as you can your own. Most manufacturers have already recognised this – making active efforts to investigate how things are done outside their own organisation or via collaboration with universities, institutions and/or The Catapult Centres.

Company culture reviews: Companies were once content to rigidly stick to old values. We see less of this in the future. Manufacturers must stay fluid, as the industry is as volatile and unpredictable as it’s ever been. Without a degree of flexibility in culture, companies can become obsolete in a matter of months. Regular reviews can ensure employees are engaged and invested in the overall outcome. By keeping an ear to the ground and listening to both negative and positive feedback this will help towards the finalisation of a malleable plan that offers immediate benefits yet can be adapted to fit with times of change.

Some of Redline’s manufacturing and engineering clients have been responding to manufacturing recruitment challenges in several ways, including looking at ‘Why Candidates Decline Offers’ and enhancing their OnBoarding processes in order to retain staff.

Specialising in the selection of both permanent, contract and interim manufacturing engineering professionals throughout the UK and Europe. Redline recruits manufacturing engineers who typically design, implement, monitor and maintain manufacturing processes ensuring the product is produced in the most efficient and cost-effective way.

For a full breakdown of the typical Manufacturing & Operations Recruitment handled by Redline, click here.

To find out more about careers in manufacturing or to see our latest job opportunities, please click here or alternatively contact Brett Longden on 01582 878841 or email