Lack of skills puts a spanner in works of manufacturing revival

Recruitment expectations in the manufacturing sector are at their highest for
five years, but shortages in qualified personnel could frustrate expansion
plans.

The latest Cranfield University School of Management/Daily Telegraph
Recruitment Confidence Index (RCI), supported by Personnel Today, shows that
half the manufacturing organisations surveyed predicted an increase in
recruitment activity over the next six months, compared to only 38 per cent
three months ago.

The research of 1,857 employers in the private and public sectors also
revealed that 50 per cent of manufacturers expect a rise in workforce numbers,
compared to only 36 per cent in autumn 2003.

However, six out of 10 respondents said they would have problems recruiting
engineers and almost half think it will be hard to find enough production
managers and sales professionals.

Janet Berkman, head of engineering and skills at the Engineering Employers
Association said that new initiatives such as engineering specialist schools
and a new GCSE in engineering were helping to change the perceived image of
manufacturing.

"We suffer from the oily rag myth," she said. "Schools and
teachers often tell their students that manufacturing is not good enough for
them and they should go elsewhere."

Berkman said that new avenues would provide an unbiased interface, which
could expose young people to real-life engineering.

Last week, research by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service
showed that applications for electrical engineering dropped by more than 10 per
cent, while media studies and journalism saw a record 15.3 per cent increase in
2003.

By Michael Millar

Other findings in the report include:

– Smaller employers prefer informal recruitment methods, such
as word of mouth and internal recruitment. They consistently report fewer
recruitment problems than larger organisations

– There is little sign of any recovery in the IT recruitment
market. Only 15 per cent of employers are expecting to recruit IT staff over
the next six months compared with 23 per cent a year ago

– The past three months have seen a slight rise in the use of
press advertising and non-commercial recruitment methods. However, use of
search and selection consultants has continued on a downward curve.

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