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The UK paper sub-sector covers the manufacture of: pulp; paper and paperboard; corrugated paper and paperboard and of containers of paper and paperboard; household and sanitary goods and of toilet requisites; paper stationery; and other articles of paper and paperboard. In addition, the sub-sector includes paper merchants. The paper sub-sector uses a mixture of traditional and modern processes. Most employees in paper-making are involved in the manufacturing processes and maintenance of the highly technical papermaking machinery.

There has been a decline in the number of employees in the paper sub-sector over the last decade. Nearly half of businesses have contracted and nearly a quarter have seen the size of their workforce reduced during the recession. The outlook for the future is more positive, with a third of businesses forecasting expansion, but with the size of the workforce likely to remain somewhere near current levels.

Key statistics:

  • There are an estimated 99,000 people employed in the sub-sector, across 3,600 workplaces.
  • 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.
  • 79% of the workforce is male.
  • 8% of workforce is 16-24 years, 15% 25-34 years, 34% 35-44 years, 23% 45-54 years, 20% 55-64 years and 1% 65 years and over.
  • 14% of the workforce considers themselves to have a disability.
  • 19% of the workforce has a Level 1 or entry level qualification, 23% a Level 2, 25% a Level 3, 8% a Level 4 and 11% a Level 5 qualification.
  • Annual turnover for the sub-sector is currently around £3.2 billion.
  • There are 1,008 sole traders in the sub-sector.

Jobs in the sub-sector range from: CAD operators, CNC engineers, research scientists-nanotechnologies, warehouse assistant, production manager, paper technologist, production manufacturing worker, paper manufacturing operative

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 engineering and paper-making
  • Management and Leadership skills

The largest occupational groups in the sub-sector are:

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

72% of companies are small with fewer than 25 employees, but the 28% of organisations employing 25 or more employ an estimated 86% of the total workforce.

The proportion of companies reporting vacancies has fallen to 5%, which is similar to the sector.

Over four fifths of the workforce is in larger companies, 48% of which report having skill gaps. Skill gaps are most prevalent in production and technical jobs.

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