How to Attract Generation Z into British Manufacturing
More than 75% of British manufacturing companies have identified the shortage of a skilled workforce as one of their primary concerns for the future. This is certainly not a new phenomenon but is a situation that is becoming increasingly compounded by the perception of young school leavers of what modern manufacturing is all about. The idea that today’s progressive factories are unstimulating, cold, dirty, oppressive environments where Production Managers bark orders disrespectfully across the factory floor is as far removed from the truth as the idea that modern day offices are where secretaries sit filing their nails waiting for the telephone to ring.
Closing the Skills Gap in UK Manufacturing
The contract interiors sector specialises in creating stunning interior environments for businesses with interior refurbishment or new build projects within hospitality, healthcare, corporate office, education, transportation, retail and the Ministry of Defence. The industry is over-brimming with creative design talent in both interior design and product design and recruiting young talent for designer roles seems to present no real challenge as such roles are perceived by young graduates as desirable alluring positions within a very civilised industry that will challenge their creative ability
However, all these bespoke creative concepts need to be turned into manufactured goods that are fit for purpose within severe contract environments where interiors take considerable punishment. This is where the manufacturer’s design team takes over and prototypes the design to ensure that all such criteria are indeed met before putting the new product into a production run.
The excitement of working with a new design concept permeates throughout the entire supply chain to the Production Team within the factory who first assemble the prototype design, and thereafter work on making the designer’s bespoke concept breathe life. This often involves working with the latest CNC machining technology coupled with experienced hand skills working at the bench and through to the various stages of surface finishing. The enthusiasm and job satisfaction of the team working within the factory on the project is no less than the designer that created the original concept sketch. They become invested in the project and its delivery.
Evolving British Manufacturing Companies
The challenge for British manufacturers is to explode the myth that manufacturing jobs are uncreative and unrewarding…and only for men. Education is undoubtedly the key to encouraging more bright young talent into British manufacturing roles and it is widely thought that education is simply not doing enough and many manufacturers blame the education system for the imbalances in promoting office-based roles over production roles for decades. Let’s promote working with our minds, but certainly not at the expense of working with our hands.
British manufacturing continuously evolves as new technologies enter the arena which results in the need to train workers and keep the workforce up to date with incoming advancements. The current lack of such training is certainly not helping the ever worsening situation with the manufacturing skills gap. Just like the construction industry and the NHS, British manufacturers rely on the movement of people from the EU in an attempt to bridge the skills gap. Post Brexit, this situation will not be helped and as such initiatives need to be promptly found to start training our school leavers on the benefits of working within progressive British manufacturing companies.
Lee Marvin, Group Managing Director at Furnotel: Hotel Bedroom Furniture and Chairman of the British Contract Furnishing Association (BCFA), spoke during his opening speech to leading industry professionals at the BCFA Luncheon at The Royal Lancaster Hotel of the need to invest in training for school leavers and indeed the BCFA is one of the strategic partners in a positive industry initiative called FIESTA (The Furniture and Interiors Education, Skills and Training Alliance. FIESTA is a newly formed organisation aiming to unite and inspire businesses in the furniture and interiors industry to become a sector of choice within the UK by facilitating internationally recognised skills development.
Attract, Recruit. Retain and Educate
Furnotel are one manufacturing company that are keen to extend their team by employing a healthy number of young school leavers who are genuinely enthusiastic about working within a furniture manufacturing facility and have an eagerness to learn from some of the more experienced workers within the Production Team, and take on the necessary skills to produce the high-quality hotel bedroom furniture that Furnotel manufacture and embrace a sense of pride to be associated with the furniture brand.
Lee Marvin comments, “Many of our younger recruits have perhaps already shown an interest in working with wood and some may well even have some recognised joinery qualifications from local colleges. Once recruited into our Production team, we train them on a wide variety of activities within the factory from using the latest CNC machining techniques, bench joinery construction methods, and spraying and polishing skills to establish whether they are best suited to Machining, Assembly or Finishing. We deploy some of our Senior machinists and Senior Bench Joiners as mentors to work with our newly recruited talent and we find that both parties get a lot out of this continual learning experience”.
Lee continues “We actively encourage our production and office-based personnel to mix socially and we promote respect and equality across the entire workforce. Everyone at Furnotel has an important part to play in this creative process and the reputation of our company rests in everyone’s hands”.
In many instances, younger employees are actually far more competent with today’s changing machining technologies and understand the factory automation challenges and can quickly progress to becoming programmers or production planners.
Employing manufacturers often show concerns that apprentices and young recruits can quickly lose interest in the manufacturing process and wander off into other professions, but in Furnotel’s case, giving new recruits a strong start with a comprehensive induction programme, well considered training and clearly explaining the role they have to play in the success of the wider project and the reputation of the company’s brand can actually result in creating some of the most loyal and willing employees within the workforce.
Working Together to Encorage the Next Generation
With the help of well considered creative advertising for courses via public sector education organisations and private sector training providers, the growth of the nation’s manufacturing workforce will undoubtedly lead to the UK becoming more competitive in a global economy. It’s the challenge of manufacturers in the contract interiors industry to work more closely with organisations like FIESTA to make manufacturing jobs an attractive option for school leavers once again.