Poll reveals shift in public attitudes towards manufacturing careers
13 Oct 2023
A recent UK poll suggests public perception of careers in manufacturing has become markedly more positive.
Key findings from the survey by Savanta, Make UK and Sheffield Hallam University of 2,436 individuals indicate that a growing number of people now consider manufacturing vital to the UK's economic growth, with more parents now open to the idea of their children pursuing careers in the sector.
In a poll five years ago, just over two thirds of respondents felt that UK manufacturing was essential for the country's economic development. Now this figure has since risen to a near-unanimous 93%.
Manufacturers' association Make UK responded with delight to the news. But, while welcoming the response, CEO Stephen Phipson also added a qualification: “The hard work and resilience of manufacturers over the last few years has paid off and this is reflected in the uptick of perceptions among the British public. But there is still work to be done as over half of children surveyed had not even considered a job in manufacturing.”
A contributory factor in the shift in perception is attributed to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. This resulted in many firms switching operations in order to meet the needs of the health crisis; with automotive manufacturers producing ventilators for the NHS, textile companies manufacturing medical gowns and face masks, and food and drink factories adapting to produce hand sanitisers. Press coverage generated too emphasised the significance of the UK's industrial base.
Parents' perspectives on manufacturing as a career choice evolved too. While just 20% of parents would have considered a career in manufacturing for their children five years ago, that number has now doubled to 40%. Additionally, 42% of parents would encourage a manufacturing career for their children, depending on the specific job or role.
The survey also highlighted improvements in perceptions regarding pay, working conditions, and career prospects within the manufacturing sector. Approximately half of parents now believe that manufacturing offers well-paid career opportunities.
Gender attitudes have also changed: In 2018, 24% of parents were willing to encourage their sons to pursue manufacturing careers, compared to only 14% in the case of daughters. Today, 36% could encourage their daughters, with 44% in the case of sons.
However public perception of the UK's global manufacturing ranking remains wide of the mark: Five years ago, the average estimate was that UK was the 56th largest manufacturing nation, a position actually held by Kazakhstan. This time the estimate was 43rd, equivalent to the UAE. In reality the UK ranked 9th in 2018 and currently stands one place higher at 8th place in the world.
To read the Perceptions vs Reality report click here.