Simon Howes (MAS)
Russ Cockburn

Member Article

South West manufacturers look to apprentices and graduates

Over three quarters (81 per cent) of the 160 small to medium sized businesses that responded to the latest Barometer from the Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS) said they will focus their future recruitment on apprentices or graduates over the next three years.

This forecast is significantly higher than the figure of just over a third (39 per cent) reported by the national MAS Barometer. It also closely mirrors the results of a recent Semta (Sector Skills Council for Science, Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies) report, which revealed an 85 per cent increase in the number of apprenticeship starts in engineering and advanced manufacturing in the past two years.

Simon Howes, MAS Area Director for South England, commented: “Attracting the brightest and best talent into manufacturing is crucial for the continued success of the sector. Our survey results are encouraging, particularly given that recent data released by the Centre for Economics and Business Research revealed gaining an apprenticeship in 2012/13 raised an engineering and manufacturing employee’s gross productivity by £414 per week on average.

“Apprenticeships in particular are important to MAS, which has a specific focus on linking SMEs with the Government’s Apprenticeship programme. It is also important that we emphasise the diversity of the manufacturing base here in the South West and highlight the opportunities available to ambitious graduates.”

Nigel Jump, Executive Director and Chief Economist at Strategic Economics Ltd, said: “A key issue for the South West economy is how to address long-term and youth unemployment. This survey suggests South West manufacturers’ needs for upskilling and their willingness to consider more apprenticeships fit well with this wider aim. Matching and closing skills gaps will boost firms’ competitiveness and help the necessary process of economic rebalancing.”

Mark Aldridge, Partner and Head of Manufacturing at Grant Thornton in the South West, added: “These findings come at a time when the Government has just committed £2bn to the aerospace sector, as well as pledging £500m to other sectors such as agricultural, technology and automotive, thereby helping to secure thousands of manufacturing jobs in our region. In addition, the measures in the Budget on corporation tax and national insurance contributions should also help ambitious manufacturers to recruit staff and grow their businesses.”

In terms of more immediate recruitment plans, over a third (35 per cent) of barometer respondents indicated that they are likely to increase staff numbers over the next six months. This is a small increase from the previous quarter (33 per cent) and slightly below the levels reported this time last year (38 per cent), but overall does indicate a continued willingness among businesses to grow.

For more information on MAS and the services it provides, call 0845 658 9600, email or visit

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Russ Cockburn .

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