Is social media the answer to the ageing workforce crisis?

Is social media the answer to the ageing workforce crisis?

Manufacturing is booming in the UK, but who really knows about it outside of the manufacturing sector?!

Without sounding like a broken record, the metal processing and engineering sectors in the UK are still struggling to attract the next generation of employees into the industry. It’s not a new news story, but it’s one that Midlands based slitting company Independent Slitters are trying to address by getting on camera to talk about it.

The Metal Magazine were invited to site to create a video about the opportunities that are available at Independent Slitters, and to discuss the opportunities more widely within the UK manufacturing and processing sectors.

Managing Director Dan Wharrad told me that “the opportunities to work for companies like Rolls Royce and Jaguar Land Rover are often well-publicised, but there is a huge industry sector that supports these types of businesses, which is often overlooked.”

In Dan’s opinion, there is an untapped young workforce, “that has no idea about the opportunities that can be had” in the metal engineering and manufacturing sectors.

Apprentice at Independent Slitters marking sheet material

The rewards, for the right people, can be great. Dan told me, “You just need a willingness to learn, the right attitude, and to be reliable.” And for this, “you can pick up good wages and have long term job security as there’s always going to be steel slitting and other process work to be undertaken in the UK.”

Works Manager Mark was very open about some of the problems that face the business, saying that “most of the potential employees that have experience are a lot older. Although, in fairness, they work hard, and often have good skills.”

With regard to the younger generation coming through, he is changing the working environment and building a team mentality, where everyone relies on each other to get the work done. Ultimately, this has resulted in retaining more staff and providing a better service for the customers, as lead times are more predictable and consistent within the business.

Apprentice at Independent Slitters with rolls of sheet material

We also spoke with apprentice Joe, who spent a month with Independent Slitters before joining Enterprise Rent-a-Car as a graduate trainee manager. He reiterated the problems that are facing the industry, saying: “Even in college, you have your plumbing, electricians, bricklayers, but no one talks about manufacturing.”

The trade associations back these figures up, with average ages in operational roles pushing almost 50 years old.

So, the question is the same as it’s been for a while: 

What do we do about getting more people into the industry?

Well, I think the answer is pretty clear. The government is pushing UK Manufacturing. There is funding available for the sector, and with Brexit there is even more opportunity to produce UK manufactured products. The global perception of UK manufactured products is still high, so the strong growth we have seen in the sector should continue.

But ultimately it’s down to the businesses that make up this industry sector to do more to network with schools and colleges, as well as showing the new young workforce of today and tomorrow what the Metal Manufacturing, Distribution, Fabrication and Processing industries are all about. The industry isn’t currently sexy, but it could be! When you check out social media, there are huge followings for engineering and machining channels, so the interest is clearly there in the younger generation. It’s just a case of harnessing that interest to present your business as a legitimate employment opportunity.

The goal of marketing is to put your business in front of your desired market. In the context of recruitment, businesses need to market themselves to the potential employees that they’d like to reach. So, they need to present themselves in the same places that their desired ideal candidates would be found and do more to make their workplace an attractive prospect.

At Independent Slitters, apprentice Joe was looking for work in his local area and found the company on social media. He sent a speculative message to the managing director, Dan, which resulted in him being given a job. This wouldn’t have happened if Independent Slitters weren’t already on social media, and not all jobseekers will be as forward-thinking or bold as young Joe.

As we found out when filming at Independent Slitters, there is plenty of opportunity in UK manufacturing. We just need to spread the word and get the next generation of employees into these exciting businesses.

Find out more about Independent Slitters and their metal slitting services by visiting their website:

About the author

Latest articles

Featured article

Get notified when we publish new articles!

Want to feature in the next edition?