Business development · 6 December 2018

Will Generation Z career choices see the end of British manufacturing?

Only a third of young people believed a career in manufacturing will provide them with advanced technology skills

Generation Z has given the thumbs down to launching a manufacturing career with a job in digital or IT much more to their liking.

A new Barclays Corporate Banking report found that just 6% of people aged between 16 and 23 wanted to work in manufacturing. Almost half – 47% – said this was because the sector did not appeal to them or they do not believe they have the skills required for the role.

Instead, young people aspire towards careers in digital, technology and IT, with manufacturing ranking only 17th out of 19 potential career paths.

The results perhaps reveal why over half of British manufacturing businesses say they are finding it difficult to recruit new employees.

However, if they invest more in recruitment strategies, the report said, manufacturers could add an additional £6.1bn to the British economy per annum by 2023.

Barclays said the manufacturing malaise was down to “misconceptions” around the skills that workers can develop. Only a third of young people believed a career in manufacturing will provide them with advanced technology skills. This is despite, Barclays said, the fact that advanced technology is a key driver of growth for UK manufacturing companies.

In addition, when asked about what they want from their future career, young people said that the opportunity to constantly build their skills is one of their top priorities.

The report said that many manufacturers recognise that there is a perception barrier to recruitment. Almost two-fifths of the businesses surveyed admitted that perceptions of careers in manufacturing have become worse over the past 20 years. It is also struggling to attract a diverse workforce, with just 3% of young women stating they would contemplate a career in manufacturing, compared to 9% of young men.

Helena Sans, head of manufacturing at Barclays, said: “Transforming outdated perceptions of manufacturing isn’t an easy feat, as stereotypes are hard to break, but the potential gains that come with a re-invigorated workforce and a new wave of talent in the industry, offer a tangible return on this investment.

“In order to have an impact by 2050, manufacturers need to find ways to educate and influence the next generation now or face another 20 years or so grappling against these skills challenges. One solution is to focus on appealing to women as well as men as it’s clear that there is currently a huge gender gap in perceptions of the manufacturing industry.”

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