A new study has suggested that the UK manufacturing sector has a shortage of young talent at the helm, and that the sector could soon have a major recruitment challenge on its hands.
According to research by business management consultant New Street Consulting Group, only 8% of directors within UK manufacturing firms are under the age of 40.
This is out of step with other sectors, where the number of millennial-age directors is on the rise. For example, around 16% of directors in utilities were born after 1980, followed by 14.7% in retail. In the UK as a whole, the average of young directors is around 11.8% across all major sectors.
Why does the age of directors matter in manufacturing?
Experience is clearly crucial when it comes to leadership roles within the sector, which is a major contributor to the UK economy and the ninth largest manufacturing industry in the world. So, why does it matter if most company directors are over 40?
There are a number of potential issues caused by a shortage of younger people in leadership roles. One of the main problems is a lack of real diversity at a senior level, which in turn can lead to a slowness to adopt new technology.
The millennial generation are digital natives, capable of driving businesses forward with innovation and new perspectives. Without a balanced mix of leaders within manufacturing firms, there’s a risk of stagnation – where the UK is outpaced by the efficiencies, cost savings and innovative processes adopted by competing international markets.
Manufacturing needs to work harder to attract millennials
In the years to come, manufacturing recruitment may be hampered by the sector’s image problem among younger talent. As New Street Consulting Group’s director Laurence Frantzis explains:
“Manufacturing lacks young talent at senior levels compared to almost every other sector. That is a problem that will only get worse if the industry doesn’t take steps to attract younger people.
“If manufacturing companies don’t rethink their recruitment process and the way they’re perceived by millennials, they are at risk of getting left behind in the race for talent.”
Similar to the issues that STEM industries face in struggling to attract the female applicants they need to thrive, manufacturing isn’t always perceived as an attractive option for younger candidates. The sector needs to do much more to compete with sectors such as financial services and technology, which appeal strongly to the digital talents of the millennial generation.
So, how can employers attract more younger directors, and fast-track them to leadership roles? Attracting younger talent won’t happen overnight, but there are some key jumping off points worth investigating.
According to a study on millennial career aspirations by Robert Walters Group, over 50% of this particular age group are more likely to accept a role if the employer uses the same technology that they do. A huge 91% want rapid career progression, while also high on the list of millennial career priorities is an inclusive, social workplace culture.
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