Posted on

Addressing the Skills Gap in Manufacturing: A Crucial Challenge for the Future

Metal Craft Industries consider multi pronged approach to tackling skills gap

In the heart of Wellingborough, Northampton, Metal Craft Industries UK Ltd, like many companies in the industry,  faces a daunting challenge: the growing skills gap. According to the Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB), nearly 20% of the current workforce in these fields will retire by 2026. To fill this gap, the government estimates that 186,000 skilled workers need to be recruited every year. This issue is not only pressing but potentially crippling for the sector's future.

Reg Larkin, a stalwart of Metal Craft Industries with over 50 years of experience, has seen the company through numerous challenges. From economic downturns to technological advancements, Larkin has navigated it all. However, he acknowledges that the current skills gap might be one of the toughest hurdles yet. "The experience and knowledge that will be lost when these skilled workers retire are immense," Larkin says. "We need to act now to ensure we don't lose the valuable expertise that has built this industry." The firm specialises in the manufacturing of stainless steel products to include trolleys and steps for retail, warehousing and tables, sinks and catering equipment for the catering industry.

In response to this imminent crisis, Metal Craft Industries is implementing several strategic initiatives to attract and retain the next generation of skilled workers. One of the key focuses is on enhancing the company's environmental credentials. Recognising the increasing importance of sustainability, the firm is adopting green practices to appeal to younger professionals who are passionate about the environment. By integrating environmentally friendly processes into their operations, Metal Craft Industries aims to create a workplace that resonates with the values of today’s job seekers.

Another critical aspect of the company’s strategy is the transfer of knowledge from experienced engineers to younger employees. Metal Craft Industries is actively encouraging its seasoned professionals to mentor and collaborate with their less experienced colleagues. This mentorship not only helps to preserve invaluable knowledge but also fosters a culture of learning and growth within the company. "We believe that by investing in our people and promoting a culture of continuous learning, we can bridge the skills gap," Larkin explains.

Furthermore, Metal Craft Industries is leveraging automation to make its operations more scalable and efficient. The integration of advanced technologies such as robotics and lights-out operations, including tower automation-fed laser cutting machines, is revolutionising the way the company operates. These innovations not only enhance productivity but also make engineering roles more attractive by incorporating cutting-edge technology. "By embracing technology, we can create more dynamic and appealing career paths for young engineers."

However, addressing the skills gap requires more than just traditional routes of apprenticeships and university degrees. Larkin believes that the sector can attract motivated individuals who are willing to retrain or apply their existing knowledge and skills to new roles. "The manufacturing and engineering sectors offer diverse opportunities that can appeal to people from various backgrounds," he says. "Whether you have experience in IT, project management, or even creative industries, there are ways to transition into engineering."

To facilitate this transition, Metal Craft Industries is advocating for more flexible training programs and career pathways. These initiatives can help individuals from different fields acquire the necessary skills and knowledge to excel in engineering roles. "We need to break down the barriers that prevent people from entering the industry," Larkin believes. "By offering targeted training and support, we can attract a broader range of talent."

Larkin also calls for greater collaboration between the government, educational institutions, and industry leaders to develop comprehensive solutions. "We need a concerted effort to promote engineering as a viable and exciting career choice," he stresses. "This includes better funding for training programs, more partnerships with schools and universities, and policies that support innovation and growth in the sector."

The future of the UK’s manufacturing and engineering industries depends on the ability to adapt and innovate in the face of this skills gap. At Metal Craft Industries, there is a steadfast commitment to playing a proactive role in addressing this issue. By enhancing environmental practices, fostering knowledge transfer, embracing automation, and opening up new pathways for career transition, the company aims to build a robust and skilled workforce for the years to come.

As the industry navigates this pivotal moment, the message from Metal Craft Industries is clear: the time to act is now. With collaboration, innovation, and a focus on sustainability, the skills gap can be bridged, ensuring a vibrant future for the UK’s manufacturing and engineering sectors. The industry must welcome all motivated individuals willing to learn, adapt, and contribute, regardless of their previous experience.