In February 2023, the InterAct team based in the Business School at Strathclyde University conducted an online survey asking the opinions of a representative sample of 2100 people across the UK what they think about the attractiveness of modern manufacturing jobs and careers. Their survey is topical and timely, offering academics, policy makers, trade bodies, industry commentators and employers a fresh and stimulating in-depth insight into public opinion about working in this sector at the present time and in the future.
They are primarily interested in what factors shape people’s views on UK manufacturing but we know very little about how people of different gender, ages and ethnicities look at the sector and as a potential career destination of ‘choice’. We know that manufacturing may be associated with some older perceptions of repetitive and insecure job but Industry 4.0 (advanced digital manufacturing) potentially changes future jobs and careers in the sector with a bigger emphasis on having people with innovation, problem-solving, creative and digital skills. To achieve this (and competing against other industries), advanced manufacturers will have to broaden the appeal of the sector to younger or mid-career workers, and people in under-represented groups such as women and minorities.
They asked the UK public questions on some key issues and big debates: the importance of the manufacturing sector for the wider UK economy; the ‘quality’ of manufacturing jobs; and about what work may look like in the years ahead. Will some manufacturers have to give more thought to how they invest in people and support worker engagement, wellbeing and skills? Will new advanced digital manufacturing technologies offer more interesting and rewarding jobs and careers? Alternatively, will more technologies, robotics and AI just generate concerns about jobs, downskilling and security?
These are all key questions that will resonate with a range of audiences. Our survey will stimulate debate, not just about what people think of UK manufacturing today and what factors help shape their interest, uncertainty or antipathy, but what may lie ahead when the emerging worlds of SMART factories, co-bots and augmented reality are drawing ever closer to our workspaces.
The team is looking to stimulate some further debate on the Future of Work in manufacturing. They welcome comment and opinion from a range of industry stakeholders: academics, policy makers, employers and trade unions.
The survey findings will be available in April/May 2023. Before this, they will be publishing a series of short blogs and commentary on some key future of work debates in UK manufacturing. The first of these – ‘Future Workforces – Advanced Manufacturing & Gen Z’ is now available to read.