Manufacturers call on skills reform in Spring Budget to stimulate investment


Commenting on the latest CIPS UK Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index which has risen to 47.5, Mike Thornton, national head of manufacturing at RSM UK, said: “The manufacturing PMI in February continued to show signs of industry stagnation at 47.5, up marginally from 47 in January, with falling new export orders and employment indices reflecting subdued demand and dampened industry outlook.

“The sharp drop in the latest employment index to 42.3 is particularly concerning, as this is the lowest level since the pandemic in June 2020. As new export orders and suppliers’ delivery times fell it’s clear the ever-changing geopolitical landscape and the ongoing supply chain disruption caused by the Red Sea crisis is impacting industry confidence.

“Despite uncertainty and instability in the market, now is the time to be addressing existing skills shortages and considering what the future workforce needs to look like. Whether its hiring a new workforce to help implement key technology, such as AI, or upskilling talent with more traditional skillsets. Aside from future-proofing the workforce, when demand starts to pick up, manufacturers run the risk of being overwhelmed and unable to deliver on projects if they maintain low staffing levels.”

He added: “Industry needs government to fast track a number of infrastructure projects to improve demand and to stimulate low productivity. This will take time, but it does need addressing, as the UK’s infrastructure spend is far behind the OECD average. Manufacturers will therefore be hoping next week’s Spring Budget focuses on upskilling and long-term investment by means of reforming the apprenticeship levy to better support businesses with training costs, incentivisation and ensuring they are equipped to deliver projects using new technologies.”

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