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UK manufacturers call for more digital skills training

Nine out of 10 UK manufacturers have benefited from the adoption of new technology during the pandemic, prompting a call for more investment in digital training.

New research released by the manufacturers’ organisation Make UK and cloud technology company Sage, ‘Digital Skills for a Digital Manufacturing Future’, showed a quarter of companies polled found using new digital technologies had boosted productivity and 12% said it had increased production levels.

Some 87% of manufacturers said investing in digital training gave them a competitive advantage, and nearly two-thirds (64%) had undertaken training to improve digital skills in the last 12 months. Interestingly, it was the very smallest and largest companies which were more likely to have taken on such training – 83% of companies with up to nine employees and 94% employing more than 1000 staff.

However, two-thirds of manufacturers do not think the education and training system is keeping pace with digital technology advancements – indicating a lag between the UK’s ambitions to be a world leader in digital adoption and the skills and training system.

Make UK has released the report to highlight its call for a National Skills Taskforce to be established between Government and industry to deliver a digital skills programme and ongoing reskilling.

Make UK CEO Stephen Phipson says the last six months had shown how digital technology had been crucial to continuing production successfully against a backdrop of Covid. “Most companies put some of their workers on furlough but sadly the subsequent fall in demand has meant that some highly skilled people have gone on to lose their jobs,” he says.

“As the sector fights to get its order books back to something like normal, it is crucially important that we do everything possible to keep hold of these skilled people who are currently unemployed. This is why government must work with industry to set up a National Skills Taskforce to match those skilled workers with employers who so desperately need those skills alongside developing a lifelong learning programme to constantly upskill existing employees.

“Manufacturers should also look to harness the power of young people who are digitally fluent to fully embrace digitalisation throughout UK manufacturing”.

Rob Sinfield, VP Manufacturing, Sage, adds: “This Make UK research is promising, yet also acts as a stark reminder of the challenges businesses, particularly manufacturers, face in the coming months. It is clear the 91% of manufacturers that have benefited from the adoption of new technology understand the importance of digital; the ones that have invested and adopted in digital are the ones that have adapted quickest.

“As two-thirds of manufacturers don’t think the education and training system is fit for purpose to help them adopt of new digital technologies, we now need to look at what support there is for them to bridge any digital skills gaps.

“Sage’s own research with Capital Economics also found that digital is key for businesses to remain resilient, with 67% wanting to invest more in tech to deliver performance improvements. So, there is a clear tangible desire from businesses to invest in digital with great benefits to be had. It is now up to the Government and industry to jointly address the support needed to nurture and grow these skills to help reduce unemployment and strengthen our sector.”

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