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Insight: Rise of the machines causing skills shortages

29th Jun 2015
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The advance of robotics and 3D printing is boosting the demand for highly-skilled, IT literate workers in the UK’s advanced manufacturing sector, according to a new study by the government’s skills experts the UK Commission for Employment and Skills.

The global advanced manufacturing market is predicted to double in size to £750bn by 2020, largely driven by developments in new technologies. But the UKCES report ‘Skills and performance challenges in the advanced manufacturing sector’ warns that the advances achieved through automation are at risk if the right people with the right skills are not available to support them.

The sector is already experiencing difficulties in recruiting the right people – with employers in this sector nearly twice as likely to report a hard to fill vacancy than in the economy as a whole.

Dr Vicki Belt, Assistant Director at UKCES said: “There is a real demand for highly IT literate production managers and production directors with strong technical and business skills.  These are the people managing the machines. They are responsible for maximising the production processes and quality assurance of outputs from robotics and 3D printers. It’s all about a balance of experience, knowledge, and softer skills.”

IT skills, understanding of complex materials and the ability to translate digital design into real-world production are set to be some of the most important skills for those working in advanced manufacturing sectors – from assembly workers to production engineers. In particular, quality assurance is becoming a key skill, and one that is holding back advances in this sector.

The report also shows that the number of high-skilled jobs in the sector is projected to increase, as the importance of R&D raises demand for workers with higher degrees and specialisms.  The search for high-performing staff will also make the UK workforce more international in nature.

The growing automation of production processes, however, will lead to a reduction in low skill and machine-operative roles.

Vicki continued: “Some employers are tackling their skills need with in-house talent development, or taking on apprentices, but across the sector there is still a real challenge to ensure there is sufficient talent to realise the productivity gains and future growth made possible by advancing technology.”

Get the full report here

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