Manufacturing seen as a good career choice according to new survey

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A new report from Make UK, the manufacturers’ organisation, has found that the British public now view manufacturing as not only being critical to the UK economy but also as a good career choice.

That represents a massive positive shift in perception towards manufacturing in the last five years, according to Make UK.

The study of 2,436 people shows a majority of the general public thinks manufacturing is hugely important to the future of the UK economy and over three-quarters see manufacturing as delivering solutions today to the challenges of tomorrow. 

Perceptions about pay, working conditions and career prospects have also undergone a massive transformative change for the better, according to the survey Perceptions vs Reality carried out by Savanta for Make UK, the manufacturers’ organisation, and Sheffield Hallam University.

A similar survey, conducted years ago, found a much bleaker view of industry with people citing negative media coverage and an overall feeling that Britain didn’t “make things any more”. Then just 70% felt that manufacturing was critical to growing the UK economy, that compares to 93% today.

The turning point appears to have been Covid, when automotive manufacturers turned to building ventilators, clothing and textile companies repurposed to make medical gowns and facemasks while food and drink factories made hand sanitisers. The UK’s pharmaceutical companies also led the way in developing and manufacturing vaccines that let life return to normal.

The positive press coverage generated during Covid seems to have shifted perceptions, leaving behind a realisation of the importance of Britain’s industrial base.

The survey found that parents now see manufacturing as a high skilled, high tech and high wage sector. Average salaries in the sector are in some cases almost 10% above the national average.

Far from being in decline, the UK is home to two of the top ten global pharma companies (GSK and AstraZeneca), one in five jet engines in service across the world are made by Rolls Royce and manufactured in the UK, six out of ten of top Formula One Grand Prix teams have their advanced manufacturing base in the UK and it ranks third in the world for aerospace manufacturing by value. The UK is also the largest destination for space investment after the US, projected to account for 10% of the global space market by 2030.

The gender divide was stark in 2018 when nearly a quarter of parents (24%) would encourage their son to work in manufacturing, while just 14% said that they thought it was a viable career for daughters.

However, through innovative outreach work and campaigns by manufacturing companies to encourage girls into engineering and manufacturing, now 36% of parents would be happy for their daughters to work in the sector, while 44% of parents would encourage boys to work in manufacturing.

Five years ago, the public guessed the UK was 56th in the world ranking of manufacturing nations, the position occupied by Kazakhstan. This time they were a little more accurate putting Britain at 43rd spot, the position held by the UAE.

The UK is actually ranked 8th in the world, up one place in from 9th in 2018.

Stephen Phipson, CEO of Make UK said: “Manufacturing is the engine of economic growth and it is pleasing that the UK public shares our view that the sector is critical for the country’s economy.

“The hard work and resilience of manufacturers over the last few years has paid off and this is reflected in the uptick of perceptions among the British public. But there is still work to be done as over half of children surveyed had not even considered a job in manufacturing.”

Savanta surveyed 2,436 people between the 20th and 28th June 2023.