Why women are key to solving the manufacturing skills shortage

A recent meeting between Make UK and the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee revealed the true extent of the manufacturing sector’s skills crisis. During discussions, Make UK revealed that skills shortages are costing the UK £7 billion in lost economic output as companies struggle to fill vacancies. There are currently around four vacancies for every 100 manufacturing jobs in the country. As it stands, the sector is battling to fill 95,000 vacancies.

One way to fill the void is to diversify the recruitment process and make concerted efforts to encourage more demographics towards a career in manufacturing. One area that progress is being made is the recruitment of women. This has been a key focus of industry throughout the past few years and during this time, we have seen the creation of more female role models in the sector. Indeed, the recent Manufacturer 100 included 10 female exemplars – the same number of men, indicating the sector’s successes.

However, we are still some way from gender parity. According to the Women in Engineering Society (WES), only 16.5% of the workforce in engineering are female, increasing only to 26% in manufacturing. Compare these figures against 72% in education and 44% in the financial sector, and you can see there is work still to be done.

At CHH CoNeX, we are challenging the norm. We recently completed a restructure of the business, carving out specialist departments for manufacturing and managed services. Both of these areas are being led by female employees; leaders who have good experience at CHH, understand our culture and our values, and have significant manufacturing experience.

Liz Scott, who runs our manufacturing team, has been with the business for 14 years and held senior positions throughout that time. Laura Leese, who leads our managed services team, has 17 years’ experience in the business, during which time she has held a number of management roles. Both have represented women in manufacturing for more than a decade.

The need for more women in manufacturing is not just about increasing numbers or providing a short-term solution to a growing skills shortage – it’s also good for innovation. A study by Deloitte found that leadership teams that include women help manufacturing companies provide more diverse perspectives and creative solutions, while also experiencing greater profitability.

There’s no doubt that females have different qualities and skill sets to males in several scenarios. They bring different experiences and insights and come from different backgrounds. Manufacturing can only benefit from these perspectives as it continues to improve its diversity and inclusion, for the longer term.

We’re delighted to have Liz and Laura leading our two key divisions, and proud to see them continuing to inspire more women into manufacturing.