Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Unlocking Skills Vital for Growth in North East Manufacturing; EY Director SIMON WHITESIDE Analyses How the North East Is Developing and Retaining Manufacturing and Engineering Talent, as the Economic Recovery Reaches a Firmer Footing and Companies Focus on Growth

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Unlocking Skills Vital for Growth in North East Manufacturing; EY Director SIMON WHITESIDE Analyses How the North East Is Developing and Retaining Manufacturing and Engineering Talent, as the Economic Recovery Reaches a Firmer Footing and Companies Focus on Growth

Article excerpt

THE UK economy exceeded its pre-recession peak by 0.2% in the second quarter of this year according to the ONS - a clear sign that the recovery has staying power.

That's good news for the North East's manufacturers, who have shifted their mind-sets following the downturn, investing to capitalise on growth opportunities. In August alone, there were a number of success stories.

Express Engineering, for example, announced a PS1.5m investment in a unique piece of machinery for its sixth Tyneside factory, while Gateshead-based Turbo Power Systems said it would swell its ranks after securing new contracts in renewable energy markets.

However, one of the overriding issues that could stand in the way of the region's manufacturing expansion in the longer-term is the availability of skilled talent.

A recent survey conducted by EY found that almost three quarters (73%) of Northern entrepreneurs struggle to attract the right talent, with 57% saying that this is down to a lack of the right skills.

While the advanced sub-sectors in the region were founded on the skills of the North East's manufacturing and shipbuilding heritage, an ageing workforce could stifle future expansion in the industry.

Of course, our region is among the UK leaders in manufacturing and engineering. We export worldwide, produce new SME manufacturers each year and, importantly, attract vital overseas corporates which also contribute jobs and wealth.

In fact, while the UK is punching below its weight in attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) in the manufacturing industry, making up just 12% of FDI secured, the sector contributed 78% of overseas investment in the North East last year, according to research from EY. These figures are compelling and show that, on skills, we remain highly competitive.

If these businesses are to continue to innovate and grow, the enduring challenge for North East manufacturers and engineering firms is to expand their share of the lucrative value-added market in the UK and globally.

To innovate at SME level, drive growth at mid-market and larger businesses and maintain a supply chain capable of supporting a healthy advanced manufacturing centre, continuing to develop and attract entry level and skilled people is vital. It is a challenge our region's manufacturing community is alive to.

EY Manufacturers' League members, in particular, remain focused on attracting both skilled talent and training entry-level employees. Ford Component Manufacturing, Faurecia Washington, Quick Hydraulics and Husqvarna are the top firms in the league for growth in the number of apprentices they are taking on, compared to last year.

Meanwhile, the North East Skills Alliance for Advanced Manufacturing - which is made up of representatives from all 12 local authorities, employers, business membership organisations, training providers and the National Apprenticeship Service - continues to work closely with businesses to create opportunities to develop manufacturing talent. …

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