Skills must become a priority to safeguard the future of the manufacturing sector

James Walton, manufacturing director, mid-markets at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking

James Walton, manufacturing director, mid-markets at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, says skills must become a priority to safeguard the future of the region’s manufacturing sector.

“Manufacturers across the UK have experienced a prolonged period of uncertainty throughout 2015. The industry’s rate of expansion has slowed, and although there have been recent signs of improvement, there is still much more to be done to ensure that the engine room of our economy is firing on all cylinders.

“According to the EEF, there are more than 611,000 people working in manufacturing across the Midlands. The sector accounts for 19 per cent of total UK manufacturing and, with £26billlion of manufacturing output coming from the region, there is no doubt that the industry is of vital significance to both our local and national economy. It’s therefore more important than ever that we continue to support our region’s manufacturers in laying solid foundations for sustainable growth.

“One common barrier to expansion, cited by manufacturers of all sizes, is the severe skills shortage. The skills-gap has the potential to hamper the growth of the sector both across the Midlands and in the UK, while also reducing the competitiveness of our manufacturers on a global scale. To combat this, and ensure we safeguard the future of the industry, it is integral that collaboratively we drive significant amounts of investment to secure the right skill set among tomorrow’s engineers.

“There are already signs of investment taking place across the industry to address the skills gap, such as the work taking place at the state-of-the-art Lloyds Bank Advanced Manufacturing Training Centre in Coventry. The Centre, which we are supporting through a commitment to provide £1 million-a-year, across the next five years, will develop more than 1,000 apprentices, ensuring a steady pipeline of skilled workers into the sector to support manufacturers across all regions.

“Creating the next generation of manufacturing engineers and technicians will not only help the future growth of the industry, it will also help to realise the UK’s potential in advanced manufacturing and support the fundamental role that manufacturing plays in re-balancing the UK economy.

“As manufacturing technology advances, the industry must keep pace with new developments and ensuring manufacturers have access to work-ready apprentices and highly-skilled graduates is crucial. This will provide the sector with engineers who have the vital skills needed to drive forward the UK’s manufacturing capabilities, ensuring that we’re able to stay ahead of the game and invest not only in the technologies, but also in the skills of the future. This will be critical to the development of a high-value manufacturing economy across all of our regions.

“There is no doubt that skills need to be top of the industry’s agenda and by working together to ensure the management teams of our region’s manufacturers have access to highly-skilled labour, we can help to address the chronic skills shortage affecting our country’s manufacturing sector. Not only will this help to support the sustainable growth of manufacturers across the Midlands, it will help to meet the manufacturing needs of tomorrow on a national scale.”