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