Automation and digitisation is becoming increasingly popular in modern society and also forms two of the key components in the digital enterprise. But with robotic assembly lines and driverless vehicles being adopted by more and more manufacturing businesses worldwide, people have been rightly asking themselves the question:

 

“Will my job be replaced by software and machinery in the future?”

The sector is pushing towards upskilling existing staff who are currently performing repetitive, labourious, and potentially dangerous linework to adopting digital manufacturing and automation to carry out these tasks. Additionally, businesses within the sector are pursuing highly-skilled professionals such as data analysts, software engineers, and additive manufacturing specialists). These adept workers can be obtained through developing a pipeline of talent from local academic institutes.

Skills and training development is particularly pressing for Norfolk and Suffolk’s advanced manufacturing and engineering sector  as there is a prominent skills-gap within the region. 

What do Manufacturing Businesses Think?

PwC conducted a  survey of over 120 US manufacturers in 2016 regarding the development of skilled workforces in the lead up to Industry 4.0 and their key findings is shown below:

Skills shortage not evenly experienced

33% of manufacturers stated having little to no difficulty sourcing skilled workers whereas 44% of respondents reported having ’moderate difficulty’.

Automation is not stealing manufacturing jobs

A majority of businesses (45%) predicted that automation would not impact their number of employees. On the contrary, 37% believed that adopting automation would increase the size of their workforce.

Skills shortage perceived to increase in the future

60% of respondents believe that the skills shortage will worsen over the next 3 years.

In-house training to become more common

this will provide the foundations for recruiting local students studying science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects as well as vocational training.

Increasing standard of education requirements

More advanced roles in manufacturing businesses are requiring candidates with higher degree qualifications.

 

 

The following suggestions are methods businesses within Norfolk and Suffolk’s could adopt in-order to innovate their traditional approaches to processes such as recruitment and training.

Train outside of the workplace

Teaming up with local educational institutes (e.g. colleges and universities) to meet the growing demand for new skills and equipment operation through curriculum focus. Also utilising online platforms to educate the masses up to nationally and internationally accepted levels of qualifications.

Publicly/Privately-funded apprenticeships

It has been identified that challenges facing the advanced manufacturing and engineering sector have to be tackled by organisations both in public and private sectors; one solution includes joint-funded apprenticeships programmes.

Directly recruit STEM graduates

Creating roles and departments dedicated to recruiting future employees whilst they are still in education is important for developing relations between businesses and academia. This can be done via job fairs and offering internships to students.

Sourcing talent from outside the region

Businesses can reach outside Norfolk and Suffolk to obtained skilled workers from other counties of the UK as well as potentially from abroad. This could be made more challenging by the relatively low wages in New Anglia  compared to the rest of the country as well as the uncertainty of Brexit.

Hiring outside of the industry

Engineering and manufacturing is a cross-cutting sector with skillsets that are transferable between its various industries. This is becoming more prevalent as more companies within the sector digitise their operations; these need skills from outside traditional engineering such as IT and software development.

Tapping the reservoir of knowledge in Start-ups

The number  of entrepreneurs and innovators are growing as the affordability and accessibility of industrial tools (e.g. CAD and CAM) increases. A pool of knowledge from amateur engineers and hobbyists can provide a means for sharing novel ideas.