Skills, in addition to costs competitiveness and the business environment, are therefore a primary driver of competitiveness in manufacturing. The quality of skills available to the manufacturing sector depends both on the development of the existing workforce and the relevance of the graduates from the education and training sector. The Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) pipeline from the education system to the labour market is particularly important to the manufacturing sector. Research by Deloitte has identified ‘Talent Driven Innovation’ (which encompasses quality availability of the labour force/quality and availability of scientists, researchers and engineers/ capacity for innovation) as the most important global driver of change for the manufacturing industry ahead of costs of labour and raw materials.
Globalisation means a sound understanding of offshoring, supply chain management and diverse workforces and strong language and inter-cultural skills will grow in importance as skills requirements. Manufacturing firms need to understand the potential of new technologies, materials and how they can not only develop new products but also new, improved and sustainable manufacturing processes. The current focus on pure financial performance will be broadened to encompass managing a broader range of stakeholders. Generalist managers are likely to have to acquire technical expertise.
The increased focus on climate change and the need to cut down carbon emissions and energy consumption is generating a rising need for skills and jobs related to climate and environmental friendly solutions, technology and services. To deepen the skills challenges even further, many sectors also forecast a loss of know-how and shrinking supply of labour available due to the ageing of the manufacturing workforce, and in part due to the perception of manufacturing as a blue-collar industry compared to white-collar services professions.