High Fliers

The Eurofighter Typhoon, built by a consortium with a major role played by BAE Systems in Warton

High Fliers

How a world-class manufacturing industry is taking off in the North

By Richard Halstead

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Manufacturing remains a cornerstone of the economy of the North. There are a range of world class sectors such as automotive and aerospace based here, together with their supply chains, with these innovative companies providing significant numbers of highly skilled, highly paid jobs. Despite the uncertainty created by the EU referendum and recent general election, the sector continues to power ahead and grow strongly with the sector accounting for around 15% of output and 10% of employment across the North. In EEF’s most recent survey, the balance of companies with rising levels of production was positive across all parts of the region. This is on the back of a significant increase in exports, not just because of the weaker pound but also due to a synchronised upswing in trade across global markets. Given the North has always been an outward looking region, this is a scenario which is expected to continue for the rest of the year and has led to an upgrade in our growth forecasts. This positive picture is reflected in greater demand for employees with job prospects in the sector as good as they have been for some time.

Richard Halstead says that despite political uncertainty there has been an increase in growth forecasts.

This performance is in spite of the huge amount of political uncertainty that companies are facing, not just from the EU referendum and the prospect of leaving our biggest market, but also the recent general election. Whilst we are leaving the EU, the recent result has at least raised the prospect of a softer Brexit which is likely to find more favour with Business. The other message I consistently hear from manufacturers is the struggle to find skilled people to meet the increased demand for people we are seeing. This is an issue which cannot be addressed overnight and requires a partnership between manufacturers and the education sector to ensure young people are aware of the career prospects that industry offers, as well as the upskilling and opportunities for training that schools, colleges and universities provide.

EEF is at the forefront of helping companies address these issues. With the impact of the fourth industrial revolution upon us we are guiding companies through the maze of the Apprenticeship Levy, enabling companies to network, both online and in person so they can share best practice and learn from their peers. Our leadership and management training is ensuring that companies are able to generate the leaders of the future form within their business, whilst attracting and retaining the talent they will need. From energy efficiency to ensuring the wellbeing of the manufacturing workforce our business services are ensuring that manufacturers remain competitive for the positive opportunities we face.

Richard Halstead is Membership Engagement Director North, EEF