As the professional body for the industry, for decades we have looked to support and grow glass manufacturing in the UK. To do so we have had to identify the threats to the industry. Working with established research providers such as DODS we found the main ail to UK manufacturing in recent years is the growing skills gap. We also found this is true for all manufacturing trades, not just glass.
Without investment, manufacturing industries will lose good people, become non-competitive and the sector won’t grow. There will be few survivors.
It became clear UK manufacturing industries have the capabilities but not the mechanism to nurture creative and innovative minds. We looked at what could be done, from recruitment to addressing how the industry treats its staff. Drawing on our research we were able to create a project idea that uses the glass industry as a pilot, which once tried and tested, can be rolled out through other manufacturing sectors. We took our ideas to government just as the Employer Ownership scheme was being formalised. With our project proposal already prepared, we were ahead of the game.
Successful in our bid to be one of the first Employer Ownership of Skills Pilot projects, we secured £2.75 million government funding which we have matched. With this boost we will be able to create a training programme whereby people employed in UK glass manufacturing can continue to learn while they earn.
We have identified training as a key area in need of development since finding that, of around 7000 people currently employed in UK glass manufacturing industries, only ~3% year on year are actively involved in training or development. This problem is exasperated by the fact that with only ~200 or so being trained each year, the industry commands no interest from training providers, and interest in developing new material is minimal. By entering a much larger percentage of our workforce into training programmes, not only will our employees be better skilled, we will create a more attractive market for those producing training materials.
Simply put, good quality training means better trained employees.
Currently we figure far behind our European competitors, with only 11% of GDP resulting from manufacturing. In Germany for instance, nearer 40% results from the same sector; where with the highest labour cost for glass manufacturing in Europe, they also boast the highest productivity. This correlation is no coincidence.
Good quality drives competition and creates a self-sustaining business model. By driving top quality training and CPD in UK manufacturing, we will experience better productivity and once again be able to compete on a global scale.
The UK economy is dependent on more materials and goods being made on UK soil and exported, not the reverse. Investment perpetuates reward, in this case we aim is to create a more engaged, inspired workforce while keeping jobs in the UK. To put the confidence back in UK manufacturing, we as employers must all take responsibility for our employees and ultimately our future. This is the essence of the employee ownership vision.
For businesses across the UK there has never been a better time to address the training and skills gap. There is funding available for those who recognise the value in up-skilling their workforce; those taking the lead will undoubtedly reap rewards.