Skills shortages continue to hinder UK manufacturing, according to today’s PMI. Atul Kariya, head of manufacturing at MHA MacIntyre Hudson, comments on the shifting focus towards tech and AI to overcome this:
“In our survey of manufacturing and engineering clients, three quarters of respondents face recruitment challenges, with 46% seeking to fill skilled vacancies. Today’s UK manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) further highlights the ongoing battle to recruit skilled labour which risks stifling the sector.
“The struggle to attract talent is being exacerbated by Brexit; a fifth of our survey respondents said they have lost or are at risk of losing staff because the UK is leaving the EU. As a result, the majority (82%) are now looking at technology and artificial intelligence to address this labour gap, and over half (53%) would rather invest in new technology than people.
“This shift towards tech also reflects the industry’s dwindling faith in government initiatives. Three-fifths of respondents feel the government’s industrial strategy doesn’t go far enough to address issues rife within the sector, and that the apprenticeship levy has had minimal impact on attracting workers to the industry.
“If the government is unable to drive cultural change through more vocational training, rethinking the apprenticeship levy or improving R&D funding, for example by giving this to manufacturers up front, we’ll likely see many manufacturers turn to tech over humans to tackle the impending skills crisis.”
 MHA surveyed over 460 clients and contacts in the manufacturing and engineering sectors. The respondents ranged from companies turning over less than £1 million to global players with significant industry presence, nationally and internationally.