As a cornerstone of the British economy, manufacturing offers fantastic career prospects!
Producing goods on a large scale has helped the UK economy thrive since the days of the industrial revolution. By combining the skills of men and women with the power and efficeincy of machines, the UK has built a wide and varied industry manufacturing everything from cars, aeroplanes and computers to pharmaceuticals, petrol and textiles – which means there’s a wealth of opportunities in the sector.
Despite some decline since Britain was a world leader in the 19th century, this country is still a manufacturing powerhouse. According to the manufacturers’ organisation EEF, the UK is the eighth largest manufacturer in the world by output. Manufacturing is also projected to deliver 40% of Britain’s productivity gains over the next decade. Despite Brexit uncertainty, the Annual Manufacturing Report 2017, published by Hennik Research, reflects a surprisingly resilient mood among UK manufacturers too.
An estimated 2.6 million people are employed in manufacturing in the UK, from small-scale producers of locally sourced goods to huge international companies supplying products for the global market. Roles include everything from engineering and technology to finance, sales, marketing, purchasing, supply chain management, HR and customer services.
If you thought a career in manufacturing meant working on the production floor, it’s time to think again. Here we take a closer look at some of the country’s main manufacturing industries.
Food and drink manufacturers turn produce grown by farmers into products that retailers can sell. Whatever the state of the economy, everybody needs to eat and drink, which probably explains why the food and beverage industry is the single largest manufacturing sector in the UK and one of the most recession-proof – whatever happens, we need food!
This sector accounts for 18% of the total manufacturing sector by turnover. It employs over 400,000 workers, but is expected to see a big increase in managerial, professional and technical vacancies in the coming years.
As a packaging operative or food process worker, your duties would entail working on machines that put finished products such as crisps, soups and drinks into packets, cans or bottles. There are plenty of other opportunties too. According to the National Skills Academy for Food & Drink, more than 49,000 new skilled professionals and managers, along with 27,000 production staff, will be needed before 2022.
Love clothes? You may want to consider a career in the textiles industry. Fashion designers are the famous names, but this sector also involves the processing of yarns and fibres, dyeing and finishing of threads and fabrics, and the design, manufacture and distribution of textile articles such as soft furnishings, carpet production, as well as the development and production of new fibres and technical textiles.
Around 39,000 people are currently employed in the manufacture of clothes and footwear in the UK. Types of jobs in this sector include technical, design and production.
There aren’t usually any formal entry requirements for lower-level positions, and many junior roles pay notoriously low wages. However, many firms provide training in the workplace, sometimes alongside formal vocational qualifications such as NVQs, which will help you move up.
This sector includes companies that manufacture our household gadgets – from washing machines and vacuum cleaners to electric blankets and kettles. Some of the biggest home appliance manufacturers, including Dualit, Dyson, Kenwood, Morphy Richards and Russell Hobbs, are based in the UK.
The household appliance industry is one of the main employers of product designers. Whether devising a completely new product or enhancing an existing one, a product designer aims to ensure the resulting gadget is easy to use, efficient, cost-effective to produce and attractive in appearance. After all, Smeg fridges and Dyson vacuum cleaners didn’t gain good reputations due only to their practical functions alone – they can be things of beauty in their own right.
As well as having a logical mind, you will need to be creative and computer-savvy since your key tasks will include developing ideas, making sketches and picking out suitable materials, using computer design software to produce detailed final drawings. You’ll need to have completed a relevant qualification at degree, foundation degree or BTEC/HND level.
Britain has a proud history of building locomotives and, as the pioneer of railway development, is at the forefront of building even bigger and better rail systems. The sector employs 240,000 people and is a growing industry – the number of rail journeys is expected to double over the next 25 years and freight is set to grow significantly too.
In autumn 2017, the Department for Transport set out details of a £48bn investment in the rail system over the next five-year funding period, an increase of more than £10bn from the last period. “This settlement will help Network Rail and its supply chain to maintain the UK’s rail system to the greater benefit of the paying passenger, freight companies and UK plc, and represents a good deal for the taxpayer,” says Darren Caplan, chief executive of the Railway Industry Association. Increased investment also means increased opportunities.
With roles in everything from sales and marketing to finance, HR and purchasing, as well as design and engineering, a job in vehicle manufacture could drive your career to new heights. Experts predict that nearly 200,000 people will be employed in vehicle and engine production and the wider supply chain area in the UK by the 2020s, so it’s a field that is expanding.
While annual UK car production is slightly down year-on-year according to the latest figures from Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders, engine manufacturing surpassed two million in the third quarter of 2017 for the first time since records began, rising 3.9% in September with more than 248,463 units made.Domestic demand was also up 11.1% compared with September 2016.
“UK engine manufacturing has repeatedly demonstrated the benefits of long-term investment into research and development and plants,” says Mike Hawes, SMMT’s chief executive. “It’s pleasing to see production exceed the two million mark already, but future success depends on strong demand at home and abroad.”
Once virtually unheard of, packaging is now a huge, lucrative industry and one that’s growing, in part thanks to the rising popularity of online shopping. The UK packaging manufacturing industry is a major contributor to UK GDP with annual sales of £11bn, and it employs 85,000 people, representing 3% of the UK’s manufacturing workforce, according to the Packaging Federation.
Packaging often plays a key role in attracting consumers to buy a particular product in the first place. From food, drink and consumer goods to industry, automotives and chemicals, packaging covers many areas. Packaging manufacturing companies have plenty of roles available, from designers and engineers to sales and marketing specialists. There are also roles in finance and management.
Without the electronic manufacturing industry, everyday devices such as computers, smartphones and tablets would be impossible to produce on a mass scale. That’s not to mention the host of solutions it provides in telecommunications and data communications, scientific research, defence and aeronautics.
Because of the state-of-the-art technology you’re working with, this branch of manufacturing is particularly fast-paced, exacting and challenging.There are two paths: either working for a contract electronics manufacturer that makes products for other firms, from prototypes to production builds; or a job in-house with a specific company.
Whichever route you take, you’ll get to be part of a team that designs and manufactures electronics products and hi-tech solutions used every day by people around the world.
The time is ripe for Young People in Manufacturing
The manufacturers’ organisation EEF produced a report in 2016 that showed that UK graduate engineering salaries rose 4% from the previous year to top £28,000. Such an increase means engineering graduates – many of whom are employed in manufacturing – now earn 22% more than other UK graduates, which is an extra £5,000 a year. This trend continues up the ladder, with engineers and senior engineers earning well above the national average.
The UK manufacturing industry is also a leader in apprenticeships. According to the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, 19% of manufacturers offer formal apprenticeships, compared with 15% across the economy as a whole and 14% of business and other services.
Despite all this, the UK manufacturing sector still urgently needs to recruit more young people. It frequently struggles to find the right employees, according to an independent report published early in 2017 by Professor John Uff of King’s College London.
The report found that manufacturers and teachers struggle to adequately explain the world of industry to young people because they lack inspiring resources to teach STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). As a result, they are failing to encourage them to consider STEM activities as a career.
Made Here Now is an initiative that aims to shift perceptions of manufacturing and attract talent to the sector. It spreads the message that the industry can provide a bright future, challenging negative perceptions and convincing more young people that it offers an attractive career. The campaign website has a range of useful information and career options, including apprenticeships and placements. Visit madeherenow.com.