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Women and children first? Young people and female staff dominate workforce concerns for UK manufacturers

London UK 10 May 2018: Workforce concerns are dominated by increasing the presence of younger people and women in the workplace, according to figures released today by Subcon, a UK manufacturing supply chain show.

  • Nearly two thirds (63 per cent) ranked “increasing the number of young people working in the engineering industry” as very important
  • 24 per cent ranked “increasing the number of women working in the engineering industry” the same
  • 28 per cent of respondents said that government and business need to do more together to increase the presence of women in the industry

When it came to how these objectives could be realised, 77 per cent of businesses polled said better outreach to young people was needed as well as increased visibility of specific areas of interest (47 per cent). For women, businesses thought better outreach and a higher profile of female engineering leaders would be the best tactics.

For the 20,000 women who left engineering to have children and wish to come back to the industry, businesses ranked flexible working patterns, a return to work programme and improved tax/childcare incentives as the top three most effective ways to facilitate the return of this talent pool.

“When we asked to what extent are these businesses concerned about the future availability of skilled staff, we found that the greatest worry was focussed on the next four to five years. This goes some way to explaining why the shortage of young people in the industry remains such a dominant concern of UK manufacturers and engineering based businesses,” said Gordon Kirk, event director, Subcon.

“But what this research also shows is that those businesses also now recognise the need to improve the percentage of women in the industry and are prepared to either do more about that themselves, or in association with government. There may perhaps be one bone of contention as greater pay transparency only ranked third as a way to encourage more women into industry, but overall it is clear that the industry recognises the need to bring more women onboard.”

The survey of more than 500 UK manufacturing and engineering professionals was carried out by Subcon and leading industry trade magazine The Engineer. Subcon is the UK’s premier manufacturing supply chain show, taking place 5-7 June 2018 at NEC, Birmingham. Visitors can register for a free pass at www.subconshow.co.uk.

Survey questions

To what extent do the below matter to you?
Doesn’t matter at all Not very important Somewhat important Fairly important Very important
Increasing the number of women in the engineering industry 17.1 % 11.8 % 22.7 % 24.1 % 24.2 %
Increasing the number of people from ethnic minorities working in the engineering industry 20.7 % 15.2 % 26.7 % 23.3 % 14.2 %
Increasing the number of young people working in the engineering industry 4.4 per cent 2.1 % 8.6 % 21.5 % 63.3 %
Is enough being done to attract women into working in engineering/manufacturing?
Yes, but there are still not enough women working in the industry 21.5 %
Yes, and there are enough women working in the industry 6.9 %
No, and business needs to be doing more to encourage them to work in the industry 19.8 %
No, and Government needs be doing more to encourage them to work in the industry 4.8 %
No, and Government and business need be doing more to encourage them to work in the industry together 28.0 %
I don’t know 19.1 %
According to research by the Women’s Engineering Society there are approximately 20,000 women who left engineering to have children and wish to return. What do you think should be done to facilitate this? Please tick all that apply?
Businesses should offer flexible working patterns 51.3 %
Businesses should offer return to work programme 45.5 %
Businesses should offer childcare provision or assistance 31.6 %
Government should do more to office better tax/childcare incentives 36.2 %
Other, please specify 3.4 %
Nothing additional should be done 5.5 %
I don’t know 8.4 %
What do you think needs to be done to encourage more women/young people to consider manufacturing or engineering as a career? Please tick all that apply
Better outreach / information at school prior to university Increased visibility of specific areas of interest (F1, space exploration etc.) Higher profile of successful women / young engineers Greater transparency on pay to demonstrate equality Nothing
Women 62.7 % 38.0 % 50.6 % 39.2 % 7.6 %
Young people 77.0 % 46.8 % 43.5 % 28.4 % 4.2 %
To what extent are you concerned about the future availability of skilled staff in your business? 
Not at all concerned Not very concerned Somewhat concerned Fairly concerned Very concerned Don’t know
In the next 12 months 16.9 % 17.0 % 24.1 % 18.4 % 19.3 % 4.2 %
In the next 1-2 years 12.6 % 14.6 % 23.6 % 24.1 % 20.9 % 4.2 %
In the next 2-3 years 10.8 % 12.6 % 18.7 % 27.8 % 24.9 % 5.1 %
In the next 4-5 years 9.4 % 10.4 % 15.4 % 26.6 % 31.9 % 6.3 %
Further away 10.2 % 7.8 % 14.8 % 17.2 % 36.5 % 13.4 %

Subcon is the UK’s only dedicated event for contract and subcontract manufacturing. It covers all sectors and technologies and allows subcontract manufacturing buyers to source suppliers, benchmark capabilities, and form new manufacturing partnerships.

A pass to Subcon gives visitors free access to The Engineer Expo, a brand new event dedicated to providing UK engineering professionals with the latest in-house manufacturing and design solutions, and Automechanika Birmingham.

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