Confidence and growth for the North West’s manufacturers

This week, the GC Business Growth Hub has released a White Paper called Attracting, retaining and developing talent in the manufacturing sector’. The paper draws upon expertise from business leaders in high-performing manufacturing businesses including Cargill Manchester, Victrex plc, Hyde Aero Products and TP Group. It also includes the results of a survey amongst over 30 small and medium manufacturing firms from across the North West.

The results of the survey demonstrate that the manufacturing sector is holding its own in the face of some enormous challenges which include skills, digitalisation and the ongoing economic uncertainty. Seeing businesses increase headcount and upskilling their workforce in order to achieve growth or business resilience is the surest sign of optimism for the sector.

Apprenticeships and student placements

I’m encouraged to see that around half of the businesses we spoke to have already taken on an apprentice with a further 40% planning to take on an apprentice in 2020. This was identified a key priority in the Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s Local Industrial Strategy. As BAE Systems announced this week that they will be recruiting 800 apprentices in 2020 it seems that the sector is open to exploit all opportunities to bring in and develop the right and best talent for their business.

This is something that we can see reflected in the Made Smarter North West pilot. Since launching 12 months ago, the programme has supported over 300 manufacturing businesses to integrate digital tools and technologies in their business. As part of this, businesses can bring in a technical student placement, from one of the participating universities. This provides the student with fantastic vocational experience, whilst introducing more traditional manufacturing firms to the possibilities that digitalisation can bring to their business.

Considerations for leaders

A key takeaway from the white paper is the need to focus on the people already within the business. The strategies employed by our contributors, and from Hub clients Rowlinson Knitwear and Cardea-Solutions, demonstrate the impact that the commonly-referred-to ‘soft skills’ can make a business more committed to data-led productivity improvements.

Leaders have an important role in this – moving quickly to identify and implement progression plans for those with the potential to develop, whilst also managing the wellbeing of those that are comfortable where they are. Make UK’s recent ‘Health, Wealth and Wellbeing for Manufacturers’ report found that 90% of businesses that invested in Occupational Health provision, offered flexible working or voluntary sick pay had seen increased productivity amongst their workforce.

At GC Organisational Improvement our teams are highly skilled in this and should be the first port of call for any business looking to strengthen this area of their business.

Looking at the bigger picture

The issues addressed in this White Paper sit within a wider political and policy landscape, which at both the national and international level recognise the urgency of the climate emergency we face, this necessitates change in every part of the economy.

The response needed requires those companies who consume the most, whether it be energy, water or raw materials, to change the most; and do it quickly to adapt to a rapidly evolving marketplace.

This requires new skills and ways of thinking, as we move from the ownership of goods to the rental of a service, and a huge opportunity for the sector to retain ownership, develop maintenance return, and reuse of the goods they produce. 

To help businesses respond to these challenges we have developed a suite of services which help companies to reduce their energy and material consumption, develop new sustainable products and identify and access new markets both in the UK and in a growing global market.

I hope that you find the White Paper thought provoking with some insights that help you improve your organisation’s productivity.

Download your copy of the White Paper here.