The stage is set – but can UK Manufacturers deliver on all the promise?

The Manufacturing Sector is key to the UK economy – period! It remains a solid bedrock to our economy that is still searching for the utopian re-balanced look. The sector’s ONS figures are impressive: 11% of the UK’s Gross Value Added, 50% of all UK exports and employment of over 2.6 million. Yes today’s manufacturers have learnt from the past. We have become more specialised, we are typically innovative, lean, agile and well managed. We did this to survive but we are not just surviving – we are thriving!

The latest CBI Industrial Trends Survey in Feb 14 provided a clear message – growth in the sector remains strong! Manufacturers are enjoying sustained growth, which is pushing up optimism. We are increasingly planning to invest in new plant, machinery and staff.

So is everything in the ‘makers of things’ garden rosy? No, our industry has a problem. A problem that could potentially restrict the opportunities that lie ahead.

Our problem? It’s our public image! We are not seen as a sexy or modern sector. We are viewed as a smokey, oily, dark industry more reflective of yesteryear. We therefore struggle to attract new talent and skills. Even though average earnings in manufacturing are higher than the economy as a whole. Our engineering graduate roles are the second highest paid of all sectors. Yes academic institutions are turning more towards manufacturers to listen to what we want and what we want is to plug our skills gap – but this takes time.

The good news, however, is that this is addressable because our sector is structurally sound – we just need an improved public image. In effect a shiny new veneer on top of our sound foundations. As senior managers we just now need to add ‘image consultant’ to our list of responsibilities.