Almost three-quarters of all manufacturing businesses are reporting hard-to-fill vacancies with engineering being the most common gap in workforce skills, according to a survey by The Marches Local Enterprise Partnership.
The issues facing the sector were highlighted in the research commissioned by the Marches LEP to assess the skills challenges being experienced by the area’s advanced manufacturing and engineering sector.
Manufacturing businesses employ approximately 37,600 people in the Herefordshire, Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin area, 14% of the total workforce in the Marches LEP.
The survey showed that larger businesses were more likely to report engineering skills gaps than their smaller counterparts, although nine out of 10 businesses in the 50-99 employee band reported an engineering skills gap.
Two-thirds (68%) of businesses said that the main level of qualification needed by their employees was apprenticeships.
Professor Ian Oakes, Chairman of the Marches LEP Skills Board, said: "The sector’s employers have told us, both in meetings and through the survey, that they need support to help close skills gaps which exist in their sector.
"These companies are often major employers with substantial supply chains, and it is critically important for the vitality of the Marches economy that the manufacturing and engineering sector is able to thrive. Access to an appropriately skilled workforce is of particular importance to the sector’s sustainability and growth potential.
"The findings from this research will really help us shape our future commissioning of skills and training support in the Marches.
"We are working closely with the manufacturing and engineering sector to understand their requirements ahead of a project later this year that will be specifically aimed at closing the skills gap and working with providers and colleges to ensure the right training is available to employers."
49% of the businesses that responded reported shortages in engineering skills and nearly two thirds (62%) of businesses said they anticipated some sort of change in their skills requirement over the next five to 10 years.