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Manufacturing

The Job Market

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  • Businesses that manufacture are vital to the UK economy although the numbers employed have been on the decline for years. According to the Manufacturers' Organisation, over 2.5 million people were employed in manufacturing in 2010. This figure includes admin, finance and other non manufacturing workers who are based in manufacturing companies.

  • The UK is one of the largest manufacturers in the world - the biggest is the USA followed by China, Japan, Germany, Italy and then either France or the UK (people don't agree!). However, other countries are rapidly catching up, including India, Brazil, South Korea and Russia

  • Although there is competition from companies overseas, Britain still has many strengths - important sectors include the aerospace and defence industries (UK defence exports are said to be worth £4 billion), car production (although how well car manufacturers do varies every few years – only a couple of years ago, over 1 million cars were produced in the UK), pharmaceuticals, and the production of food and drinks

  • Product design, which is sometimes included in manufacturing, is another important area – British-trained designers are sought after throughout the world.

  • Certain locations are well known for particular sectors, e.g. Birmingham is famous for its jewellery trade and the East Midlands is known for clothing and textiles. Computer games manufacturing occurs in many locations but important areas include Surrey, Coventry, Dundee and Leeds

  • Manufacturing companies have suffered major job losses in the last few years. Sometimes this is the result of work contracts being awarded to companies based in other countries e.g. Train maker Bombardier had to cut its 3000 workforce in Derby by nearly a half when Thameslink awarded a train building contract to Siemens in Germany. Bombardier is in fact Canadian but, as with many large manufacturing companies, it has bases across the world.  

  • Another reason for job losses is lack of customers and/or cost savings e.g. Britain’s largest manufacturer, and Europe’s largest arms dealer, BAE,  getting rid of 1000s of jobs at sites all round the UK

The food sector

  • Covered by the Improve Sector Skills Council
  • The UK’s largest manufacturing sector
  • This includes anything from animal feed to soft drinks
  • Around half a million people work in this sector
  • Company size ranges from one (e.g. a self-employed baker) to huge international firms such as Coco-Cola. Most companies have fewer than 10 staff 
  • The largest employers are bakery and meat manufacturing and processing companies.
  • Although manufacturing of food and drink takes place throughout the UK, certain areas of the UK (such as Yorkshire and Humberside, and the South West have significant numbers)
  • Skilled trades include occupations such as butcher, baker, brewer, fish filleter and cake decorator
  • About a quarter of the workforce is aged 30 or younger - as people retire, the industry will need more workers to join