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The Job Market

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  • The UK is the world's sixth largest manufacturer. Manufacturing generated £150 billion for the UK economy in 2008. It accounted for 55% of all exports and 75% of industrial research and development (£22.5 billion).
  • Manufacturing and production employs around 2.25 million people in England - around 10% of the working population.
  • Manufacturing areas related to engineering are covered in the job market pages about engineering for example aeronautical engineering and medical engineering so to find out about the whole sector in detail read the engineering job sector too.

The information in this section is about the:


The process and manufacturing sector...

  • Building products
  • Coatings
  • Extractive and Mineral Process
  • Furniture, furnishings and Interiors
  • Glass and related industries
  • Glazed ceramics
  • Paper
  • Print
  • Wood
  • For food and drink industries see below.

These areas above employ 810,000 employees and there are 79,600 workplaces.

  • The majority of employers - 80% - employ less than 10 employees.  However - although only 1% of companies have more than 200 employees, this is about a quarter of the total workforce.  There are a large number of multinational organisations, but none employ more than 10,000 in the UK.
  • Although there overall size of the sector workforce is forecast to decrease over the next ten years, there will still be a need for almost 93,000 extra people up to 2017.  Over the same period, there is a forecast fall in the number of lower level occupations, but a rise in demand for higher level skills. 
  • The building products (42%), glass (38%) and extractive and mineral processing (36%) industries were the most likely to have experienced a decrease in their workforce.
  • One in five coatings firms (20%) has experienced an increase in the size of their workforce.
  • The workforce is also more likely than average to have grown in the glass sub-sector (16%).
  • Larger companies are more likely to have suffered decreases in their workforces than smaller companies.
  • 9% of manufacturing employers in England reported recent workforce growth in 2009.

The largest industries in this sector are:

  • printing which employs 206,000 people in 27,000 workplaces
  • glass which employs 168,000 people in 21,600 workplaces
  • furniture manufacturing which employs 149,000 people in 12,200 workplaces
  • Paper manufacturing which employs 99,000 people in 3,600 workplaces
  • Extractive and mineral processing which employs 86,000 people in 10,000 workplaces
  • Building products which employs 51,000 in 3,000 workplaces

Recent technological changes are having a big impact on manufacturing with a shift towards E-manufacturing. E-manufacturing is about using information and communication technologies and electronics not just in the factory but throughout the supply chain.

For example 3D printing - as it becomes more sophisticated, smaller and cheaper to purchase - is now able to produce physical objects so that modelling and some products can be produced away from a factory. (See also future trends section.)

Sources: Proskills Sector Skills Assessment 2010 and The 2009 Employer Survey.

Food and Drink Sector...

The main areas covered by food and drink are:

  • Animal feed
  • Bakery
  • Beer
  • Confectionery
  • Dairy
  • Fish
  • Meat
  • Soft Drinks

The food and drink manufacturing and processing industry in the UK is the largest manufacturing sector.

  • There are about 460,000 people employed in the UK Food and Drink Manufacturing industry - that's 15% of the total manufacturing workforce. They are employed in more than 11,100 workplaces and in addition 15,800 retail baker, butcher and fishmongers.
  • The largest employers in food and drink manufacturing are Bakery and meat manufacturing and processing employers.
  • Although manufacturing of food and drink takes place throughout the UK the areas with the largest percent of employees are Yorkshire and Humberside (14% of all employees), the North West, Scotland and East Midlands. The West Midlands (10%) and the South West (11%) also have significant numbers in employment.
  • The majority of workers in the sector are described as 'process, plant, and machine operatives' (34%) and 'elementary positions' (15%).   A further 15% are employed as 'managers and senior officials'.
  • Skilled trades include occupations such as butcher, baker, brewer, fish filleter and cake decorator.
  • 67% of the workforce is male.
  • 23% of female workers are employed part-time as compared to 4% of male workers.
  • 90% of the workforce is employed full-time.
  • 96% of people working in the sector are employees.
  • Most of the workforce - 65% - is employed in companies with 1-10 employees and only 5% are employed in companies with more than 200 employees.
  • 26% of the workforce is aged 16-30 years; 36% are aged 45 years and over.
  • Over a third of the current workforce will retire in the next 20 years.
  • Recently, there have been major changes in consumer behaviour which impact on the sector, such as:
    • the traditional 'three meals a day' is being replaced by snacking and grazing
    • the increasing number of households and decreasing household size leads to a greater demand for smaller pack sizes
    • a greater reliance on 'others' to prepare and cook food which has resulted in a greater demand for ready prepared food
    • an increasing awareness of regional and local food and the impact on the environment caused by importing food - especially fresh food products.
    • a greater awareness by consumers of food production systems and a lack of confidence in mainstream food

Sources: Improve AACS LMI report 2010 and UK Labour Market Information Profile 2009/2010.