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Attracting People to Work in UK High-tech Manufacturing Industry

Attracting People to Work in UK High-tech Manufacturing Industry 

June 2011 by Marc van Ling Blog link -

BBC’s series of programmes Made in Britain makes interesting viewing. It highlights the growing high-tech specialisation of manufacturing companies in Britain.

In the first programme McLaren was an interesting case study of high-tech manufacturing in the UK. It is yet to provide a return on investment but investors have shown confidence in this sector in the UK.

Evan Davis who narrates the programme states China and low wage economies have taken the UK’s mass production away and the innovators have filled this vacuum. He does caution that the exports of these innovators could not meet the levels of demand for imports in the UK from countries such as China. Evan displays a good dose of optimism which makes a change from the usual negative outlook of most programmes on the economy. He highlights the brightest and best companies in the UK.

It would be interesting to see if in the remaining programme he highlights the skills gap in the UK and where the brain power will come from to work in these high-tech companies which he states will be instrumental in determining whether the UK can stay in the race to be a big player in the world economy. France, Germany and Holland with their high wage economies can lure high level EU engineers to work in their expanding economies. These countries have the choice of workers with good English and high skills. Often these workers have spent time in the UK to improve their English and have moved on to these countries as they open their borders.

According to the GfK International Employee Engagement Study, published June 2011, over 7.5 million UK employees are willing to change countries to change their careers. The figure is higher amongst degree holders (31 per cent) and those with postgraduate qualifications (38 per cent). Sukhi Ghataore, director at GfK NOP Engage comments, ‘Our findings indicate Britain has a risk of ‘brain drain’ in the coming year.' This potential talent loss poses a risk to UK companies. Explaining the figures, Ghataore continues, "The findings highlight just how globalised and fluid the labour market has become in many countries. The truth remains that, for many employees, moving country is no more daunting than moving company. Companies looking to recruit, engage and retain the best staff need to compete, not just against rivals in their own nations and markets, but from right around the world.'

One of the main reasons many multi-national companies come to the UK is to take advantage of the dynamic and skilled workforce. Compared to countries on the continent our labour laws are flexible and allow companies to employ staff on temporary contracts to cope with fluctuations in demand. Another good point Evan made is that 'top talent moves where top talent is'. In our experience some of the sectors the UK has a good reputation in and which can attract top talent wanting to gain experience are - automation design in the FMCG sector, green sector, banking,  pharmaceuticals, chemicals, new media and retail.

We are being contacted weekly by engineering companies, who are already staffed to pre-recession levels, struggling to find programmers and other engineers. Here at Europe Solutions, we can source engineers willing to relocate from the EU but rates on offer need to compete in the EU job market ; clients are finding this difficult  to understand when three years’ ago these workers were streaming into the UK job market.  Skilled workers are still available and are mobile but UK companies don't always have the choice of the best people any more, sometimes a compromise on communication skills needs to be made or a high level of engagement in the interview process. 

We have successfully partnered with a number of clients who have been able to change their recruitment strategies in line with changes in the job market. The agency's recent placements include - on the temporary contract side textile workers, mechanics, CNC machinists and on the permanent side - bi-lingual sales engineers, bi-lingual field agents, trainers. Many of these clients have seen a large increase in their export sales due to the weak pound so understand, on the flip side, they need to do more to attract EU skilled workers. We work closely with clients to ensure employee engagement is high by advising on appropriate on-boarding processes for example appointing a mentor for new hires, liaising with candidates post hire to ensure they have integrated into the company, on site meetings over a three month period, and organising training courses when skills gaps are identified.

Those UK manufacturers who adopt a pragamatic approach will attract the best talent.

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