Trouble at the Mill
We have just released this year’s Attitudes to UK Industry (ATUKI) survey, and the findings pose some tough questions for the British manufacturing sector. The data we have collected appears to suggest that, even after years of working to improve its image, industry continues to be severely misunderstood by the public. What negative perceptions are people finishing school with, and what can we do to give the public a more accurate idea of what contemporary manufacturing is actually like?
The most striking finding from the survey was that over-65s have a far more accurate idea of the nature of modern industry than young people have. 78% of the older generation surveyed disagreed with the statement that engineering jobs are mainly dirty, repetitive and unskilled, compared to only half of 18-25’s. Anybody that’s spent five minutes in a modern factory knows that this view is comically inaccurate – or it would be if we didn’t desperately need more 18-25’s in the sector.
This gap in attitudes between the generations also extends into other areas. Young people are significantly less likely than their older counterparts to agree that industrial careers are suited to women, they’re less likely to encourage their own children to pursue industrial careers, have less respect for the importance of STEM subjects and most troublingly only 41% believe that the UK can be proud of its manufacturing base.
With views like these, it isn’t surprising that there’s a shortage of young people pursuing industrial careers. We could all speculate at length about what the specific reasons are for these misconceptions, but the solution is inescapable: more must be done to show people, and young people in particular, what modern industry is actually like. When people see some of the remarkable technology and the fantastic things that people up and down the country are doing with it they tend to be pretty impressed, and in the 21st century British manufacturing can offer excellent career prospects for young people of all backgrounds and genders.
We would like to see more interaction between schools and manufacturers so that students everywhere can see modern industry for themselves and make up their own minds about whether it appeals to them. We also support the government’s plans to overhaul technical education and are working with our partners in the Industry Entrepreneurship Network to help shape the country’s new industrial strategy. Changing young people’s minds about industrial careers is going to take time, but we think it’s worth spending our time and energy on it because we believe manufacturing matters. If you feel the same way, then get in touch and let’s see what we can achieve together.
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