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South East

The process and manufacturing sector contains over 800,000 people across the UK, and over 90,000 people work in the South East. Major companies in the sector with workplaces in the South East include ICI, Oxford University Press, Polestar, Ercol, Hanson, and Fujifilm Sericol.

Around 85% of the companies in the sector in the South East have fewer than 10 employees, and although only 1% of companies have more than 200 employees, they represent over a third of the total workforce. The sector workforce in the South East is older, on average, than the national workforce, with a particular shortfall of employees in the 16-24 age group. 77% of the sector workforce in the South East is male, although the proportion of women in the sector is rising year on year. Staff turnover across the sector is 5%, which is below the national average.

Around 23% of employees in the South East fall into the process, plant and machine operatives occupational category, and a similar percentage are classed as skilled trades. Recent forecasts suggest that employment in manual and semi-skilled roles will continue to decrease as this shift progresses, but also that there will be a simultaneous rise in higher level managerial and technical roles.

Around a third of all employers in the sector recognise that there is a vital need for improved skills, both in their own workforces and in the pools from which they recruit, and around a fifth sees improving skills as a viable response to the recession. Some 14% of the employers report specific skills gaps in their existing workforces.

34% of companies reported a decline in sales over the last year, compared with just 11% in 2006.

50% of employers with skill gaps say that skill issues are costing their businesses money, and 20% say that dealing with skill issues is part of their strategy for dealing with the recession. Skill gaps are reported across the range of occupational groups, but are most common in the South East amongst skilled trades (14%), managers (22%), and process, plant and machine operatives (21%). The most common specific skill gaps are those of a technical, practical or job-specific nature.

Higher proportions of the sector workforce are qualified to level 2 than in the UK workforce as a whole, but there are lower proportions of employees qualified at level 3 and above.

Source: Proskills Sector Skills Assessment – England 2010

The South East sector profile, 2007/08


Source: Proskills Sector Skills Assessment – England 2010, annex G. Data derived from the Annual Business Inquiry 2007 and the Labour Force Survey 2008.