Ageing workforce puts skills ‘at risk of disappearing’

By Matt Atherton

- Last updated on GMT

The average age of manufacturers has risen after difficulties in recruiting younger workers
The average age of manufacturers has risen after difficulties in recruiting younger workers

Related tags Young talent Employment

Skilled workers in the manufacturing sector could become even more difficult to find, as the average age of staff continues to rise, reflecting challenges in recruiting younger workers, a report revealed.

Three-quarters of manufacturers – including food and drink manufacturers – were concerned about the ageing workforce, according to a report by consulting firm RSM. The report, published this week (May 22), found 43% of manufacturers considered skills shortages a major challenge for the industry.

It was key that businesses ensured knowledge was not lost when experienced workers retired, it said.

RSM head of manufacturing Mike Thornton said: The sector is in a perfect storm when it comes to skills.

‘Effectively be lost’

“It has an ageing workforce of experienced workers who are vital to the ongoing success of each business but a difficultly attracting younger talent – highlighting a major gap in the transfer of knowledge. Unless action is taken now, the skills could effectively be lost.”

Despite the sector’s need to attract younger workers, more than 60% of respondents didn’t think the government’s Apprenticeship Levy would attract more young talent. The levy was introduced from April this year.

“In addition, Brexit will only increase recruitment and retention threats as any changes to freedom of movement rules following exit negotiations could reduce the supply of young, trained workers further,”​ said Thornton.

“To tackle this issue head on, manufacturers need to be brave and adopt new ways to recruit top talent, whilst engaging their workforce to ensure they retain them.”

Putting young talent off

Meanwhile, 47% of Northern Ireland’s agri-food businesses cannot recruit enough skilled workers, warns a survey by the Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association (NIFDA). Negative perceptions of low pay and monotonous work were putting young talent off entering the sector, the NIFDA found.

NIFDA project manager Harry Hamilton said: “Misconceptions about the sector, such as low pay, poor conditions, production line and shift work, are hurdles which must be overcome.

“In reality, the industry offers an array of options, competitive salaries and career development opportunities.”

To attract more young people into the agri-food industry, the NIFDA and investment group Invest NI have launched a £169,000 project to work with schools, colleges and councils. The Harvesting Tomorrow’s Skills scheme will also provide additional training for those already in agri-food jobs.

Top risks for manufacturers

  • People risks
  • Skills shortages
  • Ageing workforce

Related topics People & Skills Services

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Poor management, as well

Posted by Jennifer,

Management's lousy attitude towards a genuine work ethic is probably its own worst problem. While poor-mouthing about the lack of talent, management routinely turns its nose up at more mature, seasoned individuals who are seeking jobs later in the life or career cycle. Got (real) education? Emotional maturity? Life success? Proven willingness to develop and polish new skills? You're too good to work! Managers prefer "talent" that can barely achieve minimum necessary performance or muster any interest in their jobs at all. HR recruiters actually look for individuals who are likely to disappear once they've barely mastered the basic requirements for the position. The theory is that workers who stick around to develop deep talent are considered too stupid and lazy to move on to the greener pastures presumed to be perpetually open to them. Don't even try to enter a position with the ethic that meeting the minimum required basics are the starting point instead of the end goal of job achievement. You'll never make it past the interview. Your best route to success these days is to put your time not into your work or education, but into Facebook polishing your "personal brand". As actor Billy Crystal once quipped, "It is better to LOOK mahvellus, than to BE mahvellous". Look "mahvellous" while actually being cheap, simple to plug in and easy to dispose of, and you'll do fine. So what if you screw up or don't carry your weight? Better, in management's mind, to waste money and piss off customers than to have to take on the burden of maintaining an old-fashioned committed relationship complete with social contracts and responsibilities for each side. So say goodbye to talent and business as we once knew it. There's no reason for young people to bother when management makes it clear that being marginal and ephemeral is the name of the (new) game.

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Skills Shortages

Posted by Clive Teobald,

Apprenticeships, apprenticeships, apprenticeships, that is the ONLY way. I am sick of hearing big companies making excuses and 'buying-in' labour from overseas. You say it costs too much, but look at the where your short-term policies are taking you?

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