UK cannot tackle future problems without a strong manufacturing sector

Published:  16 October, 2018

Public believes manufacturing vital for post-Brexit economy -  a new poll shows that the general public thinks manufacturing is hugely important to the future of the UK economy post-Brexit.

Although the survey indicates that the public believes Government should place more value on manufacturing, there are still massive misperceptions about the pay and opportunities it offers, as well as its world ranking.

According to the survey carried out by YouGov for EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation and law firm Womble Bond Dickinson, almost three quarters of people (70%) agree that the UK cannot tackle future problems without a strong manufacturing sector. The sector also comes among the first when asked which sector is likely to provide a solution to a number of the challenges facing the UK and manufacturing quality managers also score highly with the public for trust when compared with other professions.

88% of Brits think it is important for the UK to have a strong manufacturing industry. When further probed, 69% of those believe that when the UK leaves the EU, manufacturing is important to secure our place in the global economy, while 61% felt that a strong manufacturing sector was important to secure long-term employment for future generations.

According to EEF this strong public backing for the importance of manufacturing has significant implications for the direction of policy, with Government urged to invest more in the sector. 79% of people believe that the Government should place more value on manufacturing and half (49%) that more should be spent on training the next generation of manufacturers.

However, despite the public placing a high value on the role of manufacturing only a fifth (19%) of parents of children aged 18 and under would encourage their children to work in the sector. When those who said they were unlikely to do so were asked why, a third (31%) of parents thought the sector was poorly paid while just over a quarter (27%) said they do not want their offspring working on a production line. In addition, almost one fifth (18%) said they did not want their child doing manual labour, a factor which has huge implications at a time when apprenticeships and technical skills are so critical.

The extent of misperception about pay is that average earnings in manufacturing exceed significantly average earnings in the whole of the UK economy and services, but just 17% of the public are aware of this and the financial opportunities opting for a career in manufacturing could bring.

Of those who said they would encourage their child to work in the sector, nearly a quarter of those thinking about a son said they would (24%) compared to just 14% of those who were thinking about a daughter. One of the reasons for the gender divide that were given were that the industry is too male dominated and that they would want their daughter to do something more “professional”.

The survey also showed the understanding of Britain’s international standing was extremely underrated. The UK public believes that the UK is ranked at 56th in the world in terms of value of products made, which is actually the position of Kazakhstan. The reality is that the UK has not been out of the top ten performing manufacturing countries around the globe for the last decade, and is currently sitting at 9th place in the world.

Stephen Phipson, CEO of EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation said: “It is clear that there are massive misconceptions about manufacturing although it is pleasing that the UK public feels the sector is important for the country’s economy and that Government should invest more in its future.

“Clearly we need to continue to push Government to work with industry to invest more in creating the next generation of manufacturers to ensure we are able to maintain Britain’s impressive place in global manufacturing, and go on to improve further and grow.”

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