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To boost the manufacturing sector wider equality of job opportunities is needed

Manufacturing is a male-dominated industry. To reinvigorate the sector young people, especially females, are required.

Factory gate prices in China fell for the first time in nearly two years, official data showed Wednesday, as falling global commodity prices made their mark on an ailing economy
Factory gate prices in China fell for the first time in nearly two years, official data showed Wednesday, as falling global commodity prices made their mark on an ailing economy - Copyright AFP/File STR
Factory gate prices in China fell for the first time in nearly two years, official data showed Wednesday, as falling global commodity prices made their mark on an ailing economy - Copyright AFP/File STR

The manufacturing industry remains important in terms of job creation and security. As an example, Make U.K.’s survey found that the sector created 2.5 million jobs in 2022 and that the wages for those jobs averaged at 12 percent higher than the whole economy. On this basis, as Digital Journal has reported, the manufacturing sector is seen by several economists as the engine to drive the U.K. out of recession.

With concerns surrounding job security and longevity rising during the pandemic, manufacturing offers millions of job opportunities. However, there is a demographic challenge, and this envelops into the area of equality of opportunity.

The industry is an ageing one with a lot of the technical knowledge held by employees over 55, many of whom left the workforce during COVID-19. This has left a pressing skills gap, and the sector must focus on attracting a new generation of workers to it – and upskilling them efficiently.

It also stands that manufacturing is a male-dominated industry. To reinvigorate the sector young people, especially females, are required. The new workforce generation, and particularly young women, need to be able to see employment within the industry as a viable option.

Leanne Matthew (29), GTK’s HR Business Partner, has told Digital Journal she has faced discrimination within the industry prior to her role in the business, but that she used these challenges to spur herself on.

For Matthew, challenging and changing the male-dominated face of the industry and showing it as an inclusive sector is an essential measure for attracting young talent into manufacturing and technology.

She explains: “We need to change the male-dominated image of engineering, manufacturing and other STEM sectors. If you Google them, and even look at company websites, you’ll get images of men in high-vis and hard hats, and that’s only a tiny proportion of the sector’s workforce and output.”

The downside of this is where it puts off young women from entering the workforce, especially in core manufacturing areas like engineering. Having positive role models is important as is encouraging young women still in education to consider orientation their goals towards the manufacturing sector.

Technology can be a powerful force, especially for attracting younger people into the sector. Matthew sees digital transformation as one of the vehicles of change: “Manufacturing is becoming more technology-based now, and you have essential roles in quality and procurement and back-office roles like HR and marketing.”

Changing the perception of manufacturing to a new sphere of employment for young people and women will help to supercharge the industry and allow it to contribute even more to the U.K. economy both in terms of employment and output.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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