A job in manufacturing

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The success of UK manufacturing is crucial to our country's prosperity. More than 3.8 million are employed in the sector – that's about one-in-every seven people working in the UK. It contributes almost £150 billion to the economy and almost two-thirds of all exports are manufactured goods.

What exactly is manufacturing?

Manufacturing describes the process of taking raw materials and converting them into a finished product, usually by means of a large scale industrial operation. Manufacturers range from major international companies employing thousands of people to small specialised companies with a handful of skilled staff.

UK companies face increasing competition from overseas manufacturers who can often supply goods produced from lower-priced materials with less expensive labour costs. This has led to declines in some of the UK's traditional core manufacturing industries such as iron and steel as well as some home-produced goods such as refrigerators, cookers and washing machines.

What about the future?

Newer industries are expanding to fill the space – and creating more interesting and high-tech jobs. Some of these are based on aerospace, biotechnology, electronics, ship repairs and small craft building, for instance. Craftspeople, technicians, designers, surveyors, physicists and industrial chemists are just some of the work opportunities. Also, industry leaders reckon the future success of UK manufacturing depends on raising investment, and applying science and innovation, best practice and skills to create even better products.

What types of skills are needed?

New products, new designs, new materials and new production techniques call for high-tech machinery and skills to match. For instance, machine operatives are now adding skills such as maintenance engineering and computing in order to oversee manufacturing processes. While skill levels vary with the job, everyone must be safety conscious and responsible. They should also enjoy working with machinery, understand how it works and be able to handle technical equipment.

How do I get into manufacturing?

Apprenticeships (Skillseekers in Scotland) are a very popular way of gaining entry and lead to valuable qualifications whilst working and earning. Apprentices can gain NVQ/SVQ Levels 3-4 from where they can continue studies to degree level. Graduate apprenticeships are available and full graduate entry is normal for many engineering and production jobs. Most companies also provide training.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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