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Is Generation Z turning away from a career in manufacturing?

04 March 2019

Research from Barclays Corporate Banking shows that only 6% of Generation Z – 16-23 year- olds – are considering a career in manufacturing. Almost half (47%) state this is because the career path does not appeal to them, or they do not believe they have the skills required (35%) for the role. 

Instead, young people aspire towards careers in digital, technology and IT, with manufacturing ranking only 17th out of 19 potential career paths. 

One reason why young people are reluctant to take up a career in manufacturing, is that there are misconceptions around the skills that workers can develop - only one-third of young people believe a career in manufacturing will provide them with advanced technology skills. This is despite the fact that advanced technology is a key driver of growth for UK manufacturing companies. Furthermore, when asked about what they want from their future career, 40% of young people say that the opportunity to constantly build their skills is one of their top priorities. 

This shows that although a career in manufacturing could fulfil their future job aspirations, young people appear to be unaware of the opportunities provided by the sector.
The report, 'A New Image for Manufacturing' surveyed 2,000 16-23 year olds to understand how perceptions of manufacturing have changed, and 500 manufacturing decision makers to reveal what businesses have been doing to recruit new employees, and upskill their existing workforce to use new technologies.  
Many manufacturers do recognise that there is a perception barrier to recruitment, with  almost 39% of the businesses surveyed admit that perceptions of careers in manufacturing have become worse over the past 20 years. In particular, the research reveals that industry is struggling to attract a diverse workforce, with just 3% of young women stating they would contemplate a career in manufacturing, compared to 9% of young men.  
Commenting further on the report findings, Helena Sans, head of manufacturing at Barclays, said: “Our research reveals that there is a mismatch between perceptions of manufacturing and the reality of what a career in manufacturing can provide.  The skills most desired by young people include decision-making, complex problem-solving and technical skills but these match the skills that manufacturers say employees gain from working in the industry and highlights the need for businesses to engage and inspire the younger generation.
“Raising a generation from early years to graduation is a 20-year process. In order to have an impact by 2050, manufacturers need to find ways to educate and influence the next generation now or face another 20 years or so grappling against these skills challenges. One solution is to focus on appealing to women as well as men as it’s clear that there is currently a huge gender gap in perceptions of the manufacturing industry.”

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