Manufacturers are looking for the next generation of leaders and they need them sooner than those currently in classrooms will arrive.
A huge emphasis is placed on STEM education, and rightly so. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics underpin every aspect of society. The benefits of STEM education also extend far beyond the core subjects.
It helps foster and develop critical skills such as problem-solving, collaboration, communication and decision-making. It’s also proven to create a richer, more enjoyable learning experience.
All young people should have the opportunity to learn about and explore STEM principles, irrespective of whether they pursue a related qualification or not. Not least because those currently in primary or secondary education will become the workforce of the 2030s and 2040s.
If recent events have taught us anything it’s that we need more people adept at critical-thinking and problem-solving. However, manufacturers face a more pressing issue:
20% of the current manufacturing workforce is set to retire by 2026
That means around 500,000 of the most experienced and skilled engineers, technicians, operators and leaders leaving the industry in 36 months. This is a sobering thought, particularly when you consider the makeup of the industrial workforce.
The majority of UK manufacturing workers are over 40 years of age. Worryingly, the average age is 52. Most apprentices are aged between 16 and 24. That leaves a sizeable gap in the middle. This is the group that typically provides team leaders, supervisors, department heads and managers but it has effectively been hollowed out over past decades.
What this means for businesses formed the basis of a Discussion Group, chaired by Jonny Williamson, with input from Made Members representing a broad cross-section of industry.
Two-thirds of manufacturers say there is a shortage of management skills in UK industry, according to a recent report. What’s more surprising is that despite 70% of manufacturers agreeing that future leaders are developed internally, less than 10% of training budgets go towards developing leaders. Alarmingly, one in 10 manufacturers has no budget for developing leaders at all!
Identifying potential future leaders and having the capacity to release those individuals for training were the biggest constraints for the Made Members present. For example, a qualification from the Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM), among the most popular providers, requires around 20% of the time to be taken during business hours.
These are particular issues for small businesses that often don’t have the budget for management training and/or prioritise production over leadership skills.
Not many of the organisations represented had formal employee progression plans in place. These frameworks help to identify what skills a company already has, what skills are lacking in relation to future goals and, importantly, who is keen to progress and take on a more senior role – which not everyone is, one Member rightly noted.
Employee progression or development plans help workers acquire new skills for their current position while expanding their ability to take on a new role within the company. They are also proven to boost employee engagement and retention, as well as help attract new talent.
On that subject, it was noted that good leaders have strong emotional intelligence - i.e., can manage their own emotions and recognize and influence the emotions of those around them. It’s not that technical (‘hard’) skills aren’t important but they are more teachable compared to ‘softer skills’ such as empathy, communication and the ability to motivate someone.
Research in more than 200 companies worldwide found that emotional intelligence was four times as important as technical and cognitive ability in distinguishing top-performing leaders from average ones.
If a background in industry isn’t as important in leader selection, should manufacturers be looking to recruit from other sectors? For example, around 16,000 people transition from the UK Armed Forces to the civilian workforce every year. Could more be done to encourage these individuals to consider careers in manufacturing, and not just for leadership roles?
In the same vein, the tech sector has been hit by waves of redundancies of late. Those affected could be another source of leaders and managers for industrial businesses. Not to mention helping fill manufacturing’s other major talent shortfall in digital skills.
Meet, confer and share best practice
Opportunities to openly discuss and consider challenges, opportunities and solutions are why the Made in Group’s Virtual Breakfast Mornings are so invaluable.
Seventy-five minutes out of your morning to hear inspiring and thought-provoking conversations, build relationships with like-minded fellow manufacturers, and gain a clearer picture of what’s happening beyond your factory gates.
We look forward to seeing you at the next one:
*Header image courtesy of Pixabay