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Sector LMI - Manufacturing

Manufacturing represents 10% of the whole workforce in the UK and has some world-class manufacturers. It involves making a product from raw materials by hand or with machinery and is categorised in many different ways. Industries include:

  • food products, beverages, tobacco products
  • textiles, wearing apparel, leather and related goods
  • wood and wood products
  • paper and paper products, printing and reproduction of recorded media
  • coke and refined petroleum products
  • chemicals and chemical products, basic pharmaceutical products
  • rubber and plastic products, other non-metallic products
  • basic metals fabricated metal products
  • computer, electronic and optical products, electrical equipment machinery and equipment nec
  • motor vehicles other transport equipment
  • furniture
  • other manufacture
  • repair and installation of machinery and equipment
  • scientific research and development

Key facts

  • The sector employs nearly 3 million people in approximately 144,115 companies.
  • Highest employment levels are in the manufacture of: food products; machinery and equipment nec; and fabricated metal products.
  • Building products produced by this sector are vital to the successful operation of the construction industry.
  • The UK glass industry produces an estimated 2.8 million tonnes of glass each year.
  • The largest proportion of manufacturing workers in England can be found in the East Midlands, West Midlands, and Yorkshire and the Humber.

Manufacturing workforce

  • 24% of the workforce is female. 48% of the female workforce are in sales and customer service occupations.
  • 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.
  • Compared to the UK workforce as a whole, the manufacturing sector has fewer part-time, self-employed, and temporary workers than average.
  • 91% of the workforce are employed full-time.
  • The workforce is ageing workforce with higher numbers in the older age-bands than across the economy as a whole; 44% of the workforce are 45 years and older.
  • The sector has slightly lower proportions of its workers from Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic communities (7%), compared to the whole economy (9%).

Education and training

Generally, there are no specific entry requirements to the sector. However, there are more specific requirements for technical roles and those with strict health and safety needs. Larger companies are more likely to give importance to external qualifications compared with smaller companies, and therefore offer graduate training programmes. However, the demand for higher level technical qualifications is increasing, especially engineering, electronics and IT.

The majority of workforce development takes place in-house, with employers expressing a strong preference for work-based solutions. Training is often through assessed programmes leading to NVQs. NVQs are available in many specialised subjects specific to the industries, yet produce skills which are highly developed.

Salary levels

The average income for a few of the occupational areas follow:

  • New manufacturing systems engineers start between £22,500 and £25,000, but with experience can earn between £26,000 and £35,000. Chartered engineers can earn over £40,000.
  • Manufacturing supervisors' salaries start at around £15,000 a year, compared with experienced manufacturing supervisors who can earn between £17,000 and £21,000.
  • Senior supervisors in larger companies can earn up to £25,000.
  • The average starting salary for manufacturing production workers is between £11,000 and £14,500 a year, but with more experience and supervisory duties you can earn between £15,000 and £20,000 a year.
  • The starting salaries for a new production manager is between £18,000 and £24,000 a year, rising to £25,000 and £37,000 with experience. Production plant managers can earn over £40,000.
  • For a quality control technician starting salaries are between £12,500 and £15,000 a year. Experienced technicians can earn between £16,000 and £22,000, whilst senior technicians and those with special skills can earn up to £25,000 a year.

Future prospects

The expansion in the building sector has supported growth across much of the manufacturing sector. However, growth at present is slow. The recession has had a severe effect on the sector, but, the majority of employers are optimistic about the future. The overall numbers employed in the sector will decrease up to 2017, but there will be a need for almost 93,000 people to replace those who are leaving the sector. Future employment in the sector will be in higher level roles that will require more advanced skills. Lower level roles will still, however, be of importance.

It is predicted that across the manufacturing sector industries will continue to become more automated and efficient over the next decade. This will raise the requirements for professional and managerial staff, but reducing demand for skilled and elementary employees, such as production workers and technicians. Therefore, over the next few years, jobs in elementary occupations are expected to decrease the most.

The UK economy is changing fast and there are a range of factors that play a key role in employment patterns in the sector. Competition from abroad is, and will continue to have an influence in the future across the industries in the manufacturing sector. Technological changes and changes in consumer demands will influence the way goods are produced and the services provided.

Health and safety will continue to be important across the sector, with industries working towards demanding targets. Low carbon and sustainability will be key drivers for the sector, as green issues become more important. Overall, there is a shift towards more efficient and effective working methods with advances in technology and working practices.


Engineering Sector Skills Assessment 2012

NGRF - LMI Futures Trends

EngineeringUK 2012

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