How to attract young talent to the manufacturing sector

David Phillips, City & Guilds, on how to attract young talent to manufacturing: engaging via the skills system, raising awareness & prioritising attitude

The manufacturing sector is entering a new era, with digitalisation and automation creating huge potential for growth. But as older workers retire and the industry becomes more competitive, labour shortages are threatening the future of the sector.

Recent research from Lightcast estimates that the industry is set to create 32,000 new jobs in the next five years (2022-2027). With such significant growth, it’s clear we’ll need a strong pipeline of future talent to see this new age of manufacturing come to fruition.

Yet this is not an easy feat. In fact, figures from our Youth Misspent report reveal that less than a third (31%) of 18-25 year olds would consider working in the sector. The picture only gets bleaker, as when asked to choose one profession they aspire to work in, only 2% chose manufacturing.

So, why aren’t young people interested in manufacturing?

When asked why they wouldn't consider a career in manufacturing, over a quarter (27%) said they don't know enough about the jobs available. Some were put off by the (mis)perception of jobs involving manual work (21%), that they’re poorly paid (14%), or that the jobs don’t lead to a lifelong career (13%).

If the sector wants to tackle skills shortages and attract younger generations, raising awareness of the variety of opportunities available will be crucial.

So, what can be done?


Engage young people through the skills system

The skills system is an effective way to connect with young talent who are thinking about their futures. Skills bootcamps and apprenticeship programmes are extremely valuable pathways to training and employment for young people, yet they are often underutilised by manufacturers. Offering formal training pathways can help younger recruits feel more supported in manufacturing jobs.  

Employers can even proactively work with local schools, colleges and educational authorities to help ensure that the skills being taught meet the needs of employers in the sector and to help students view their learning through the lens of their future careers.

David Phillips, Managing Director at City & Guilds

David Phillips, Managing Director at City & Guilds

Raise awareness of the industry with work experience

Work experience is a priceless experience for students, and an easy way for employers to engage with young people. They can understand what the industry is actually like and how they can be a valuable part of the manufacturing workforce. 

By building relationships with schools and colleges, employers can offer placements to give young people hands-on experience and demystify misconceptions about manufacturing. Oftentimes, an experience of work during a student’s younger years will shape their ambitions for the future. 


Change the application process to prioritise attitude over aptitude 

Understandably, young people often find the process of applying for jobs intimidating. Many applications have long lists of required skills, meaning applicants may often avoid a role that they are interested in if they think they don’t meet those requirements. 

In fact, our Youth Misspent survey revealed that 30% of those who stated that they are not interested in manufacturing jobs, said that because they think they don’t have the right skillset.  

Removing barriers-to-entry, such as grade requirements for some qualifications and simplifying the language on applications to emphasise personality traits, like creativity and enthusiasm for work, will boost young people’s confidence in their abilities and increase application rates.  

To see growth and success in the sector, manufacturing companies need to ensure they cultivate a thriving workforce to match its aspirations. Employers need to do more to engage young people by putting their best foot forward and portraying an industry that is accessible, varied in opportunities and ready to invest in their futures.


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