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This UK coatings sub-sector covers the manufacture of: decorative paints (the paints available in DIY stores); industrial paints (paints for cars, aeroplanes, steel beams, cans etc.); varnishes; powder coatings; printing inks; mastics and sealants; and wall coverings. Examples of some larger companies in the sub-sector include: ICI; Sun Chemicals; Akzo Nobel; and SigmaKalon.

There has been a decline in the number of employees over the last decade, but this has slowed more recently and over the last three years employment levels have remained steady. Some companies are operating in niche markets and are still considering recruiting, particularly young people. The outlook for the future is fairly positive, with some businesses forecasting expansion, but with the size of the workforce likely to remain somewhere near current levels.

Key statistics:

  • There are an estimated 21,000 people employed in the sub-sector, across 1,000 workplaces.
  • The majority of the workforce (14,000) are employed in paint and powder coatings manufacture, with 7,000 in printing inks, 1,000 in wall coverings.
  • Workers in the sub-sector tend to be full-time and directly employed, rather than on a contract basis.
  • Work is often shift-based, especially in lower levels jobs.
  • 67% of the workforce is male.
  • 96% of the workforce is white.
  • 6% of the workforce is 16-24 years, 16% 25-34 years, 36% 35-44 years, 28% 45-54 years, 13% 55-64 years and 1% is65 years and over
  • 13% of the workforce considers themselves to have a disability.
  • 19% of the workforce has a Level 1 or entry level qualification, 25% a Level 2, 25% a Level 3, 4% a Level 4 and 16% a Level 5 qualification.
  • Annual turnover for the sub-sector is currently around £3.9 billion.
  • There are 1,207 sole traders in the sub-sector.

Jobs in the sub-sector range from: laboratory assistant, production operative, manufacturing operative, production support, business support, production quality controller, maintenance engineer, operations director, coatings technologist

Generally, the skill needs for the future will be in higher level management and technical operations. There will be a continuing need for health and safety skills in the sub-sector. It will become more important for people to be multi-skilled and able to work across several areas of the business. Skill shortages in the sub-sector include:

  • Employability skills, such as team-working, having a good attitude, and using initiative
  • Craft and Technical skills, such as colour mixing and chemistry
  • Management and Leadership skills

The largest occupational groups in the sub-sector are:

  • Process Plant and Machine Operatives
  • Managers and Senior Officials
  • Elementary Occupations

The majority of companies in the sub-sector (93%) are located in England, with 6% of the total in Scotland, 1% in Wales and 1% in Northern Ireland. 65% of employers in coatings employ between 2 and 9 people, 20% employ 11-49, 13% 50-199 and 1% of all companies employ more than 200 people at their site.

Major issues facing companies include energy costs, changing customer demands and lack of demand for products. Over a quarter of companies say that there is a need to increase workforce skills.

The proportion of companies reporting vacancies has fallen to 9%. Larger companies are having more problems finding people than smaller ones. Although numbers being recruited are relatively small, there are difficulties in finding people with the right skills.

Skill gaps are most prevalent in production and technical jobs.

Source: Proskills AACS LMI report 2010 and The 2009 Employer Survey – Coatings