Attracting millennial talent to manufacturing

Laurence Frantzis | 8 June 2021

Our recent research has highlighted that the manufacturing sector is lagging behind when it comes to age diversity with the lowest percentage of millennial directors of any major sector in the UK – with just 7.6% of directors in the sector being born after 1980.

The average percentage of millennial directors across all major sectors in the UK is now 11.8%, with leading sectors including utilities with 16.7% and retail with 14.7%.

Without younger talent on the board, manufacturing companies may lack proper diversity at the top. This could open them to risks such as becoming slow to adopt key forms of new technology that may be critical for increased productivity, such as artificial intelligence.

This research has shone a light on the wider challenges that the industry has in attracting talent at all levels. Manufacturing is losing graduates and younger talent to other sectors such as financial services and technology who are often swayed by their bigger remuneration packages and more progressive image as employers. Failure to attract new graduates into the manufacturing industry is likely to exacerbate this talent shortage in the coming years and will leave some manufacturers facing problems with succession planning for their senior leadership.

In Germany, the sector doesn’t face the same challenges in attracting younger talent with 26% of all degrees conferred in 2017 were to engineering students, double the rate of the UK. This has created a significantly larger talent pool for German manufacturers to draw from and is one of the key drivers behind the country’s success in the field.

It’s a problem that will only get worse if the UK manufacturing businesses don’t take steps to bring in a younger generation of talent.

So, what can be done to attract new talent?

Manufacturing companies need to rethink their recruitment process and the way they’re perceived by millennials or risk getting left behind in the race for talent.

Businesses should start by looking at their employer brand to start to unpick the perception many millennials have of the sector, which is that many manufacturing businesses are old-fashioned.

Millennial candidates view the appeal of an employer through an entirely different lens to the generations before them. Typically, they place higher value on a company’s ESG record and their use of cutting-edge technology.

With the manufacturing industry making great progress in both fields, manufacturers need to ensure their company image makes the most of these developments. The industry is on the front-line of innovation and companies need to better showcase these developments to give them a stronger chance of attracting young talent.

Laurence Frantzis is a director within our manufacturing and engineering practice at NSCG. If you would like to discuss bringing diversity to your leadership team, please get in touch.

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