UK manufacturers should bridge skills gap with German model

By Laurence Gibbons

- Last updated on GMT

Aurich said the UK was failing to bridge its skills gap because it didn't have an educational system that attracts people to engineering
Aurich said the UK was failing to bridge its skills gap because it didn't have an educational system that attracts people to engineering

Related tags Drink manufacturing sector Apprenticeship Industry Education

The German experience could teach the UK a lot about making careers in manufacturing more appealing to new recruits, according to engineering giant Siemens.

Siemens UK and North West Europe Cluster chief executive Roland Aurich said UK food and drink manufacturers should replicate the way German firms attract people into engineering in order to bridge the skills gap​ it is experiencing.

137,000 new recruits are needed in Britain’s food and drink manufacturing sector over the next few years to replace people set to retire. This represents about 34% of the total workforce in the sector in the UK.

The Food and Drink Federation’s director of communications Terry Jones said there was significant demand for engineering skills in the food and drink manufacturing sector.

Aurich was speaking at a conference organised by the engineering employees body EEF yesterday (March 5), which looked at what could be done to make manufacturing more attractive to young people.

Manufacturing was viewed as an attractive career option in Germany, said Aurich, who added that Germans took pride in working in engineering. “This pride is instilled through their education framework – that has worked for many years,” ​he said.

‘Not working’

“In the UK we have stalls at fairs and try to attract people, but that is not working, ​he added. “We need to look at countries that get it right   ̶  like Germany   ̶  and copy what they do.”

Aurich said the UK was failing to bridge its skills gap because it didn’t have an educational system structured to attract people into engineering from an early age.

At the same event, shadow business secretary, Chuka Umunna said the UK needed to change the way it viewed people who chose apprenticeships instead of academic careers if it was to make manufacturing more attractive.

“We have to look at apprenticeship training in the same light as academic qualifications,” ​said Umunna. “If someone is doing an apprenticeship that is as noble as going to university and we as a nation need to acknowledge that.

“Having a skills system in place is fundamental to the development of the manufacturing sector.”


Chairman of global investment banking firm Goldman Sachs Jim O’Neill told delegates that the UK should look to non-UK nationals as a solution to bridging the skills gap.

But the UK would need to stop viewing immigration as a problem before this could happen, he added. “When thinking about our policies on immigration, we have to make sure that we don’t do things that will impair our workforce. We need quality and quantity.”

Aurich added that rather than making immigration more difficult for skilled overseas workers, the UK needed to reduce restrictions. “The UK should accept different graduates, from different countries”​ he said.

Meanwhile, Grimsby Institute has announced it is struggling to recruit students onto its Food Manufacturing Management degree because school leavers did not consider it a particularly promising route into full-time employment.


Helen Molton, head of higher education, within Grimsby Institute’s School of Business Management and Computing, said the new university fees structure had added to the problem.

Employers have indicated a reluctance to pay the full rates now that government have cut funding for higher education,” ​said Molton. “School leavers appear not to consider this as a route; we hardly ever have enquiries for a full-time programme from traditional higher education students.”

Fees at Grimsby Institute have increased from £1,930 to £3,997 a year for part-time students and £2,900 to £5,995 for those studying full-time.

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1 comment

Engineering gap.

Posted by John,

I fully support this article. I would add that one of the main causes of the skills gap in UK is the perceived lack of future in current UK companies if you have an engineering profile.

Top jobs are allocated to business consultants, financial managers and accountants but very rarely to engineers.

It is a very powerful drive for parents not to direct their children towards an engineering training.

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