UK and US Manufacturing – the same or different?

May 27, 2012 - 0 Comments

Since I was brought up in England and worked for three American Hi-Tech Companies in the UK, I was intrigued by the latest report to come out of the Centre for Industry and Government at the University of Cambridge titled Public perceptions of manufacturing and efforts to rebalance the UK economy“.

In fact I’m grateful to the folks at Automation World for bringing it to my attention. Automation World is a good source of industry insight (readers might remember the article I contributed about the use of Social Media in Manufacturing, which I blogged about in January of this year:  How Social Media Improves Collaboration – Automation World, November 2011, and how they awarded Cisco ‘First Team Honors’ which you can read more about in the blog: Automation World First Team Honors Won by Cisco Systems for Leadership in Networking.

So, back to the point of this blog. The folks at the Cambridge Centre, lead by Dr. Finbarr Livesey, Director, Centre for Industry and Government IfM, University of Cambridge, come up with some interesting perceptions concerning the UK. Nearly 1,500 respondents suggests that manufacturing has become more High Tech and they believe that there is a strong requirement for more highly skilled workers.

There’s the rub. If you look at the recent article I wrote for Control Engineering (The Mobile Industrial Worker: Control Engineering Magazine Cover Story by Cisco) , I make the point that baby boomers retiring and lack of skilled workers is a real challenge. A challenge that Cisco and others are helping to overcome (read the article linked to in the last blog link to find out how.).

The industry has also become far more demanding. The report mentions that over the 15 year period from 1994 to 2009, the number of employees in manufacturing educated to degree level has almost doubled in the UK (from almost 10% to over 17%). But then the job market is changing – 1st degrees now needed when high-school grads would do in the past. Masters now required when Bachelors was good enough. It’s a new world.

The report cites a Deloitte and Manufacturing Institute survey from last year to make the US/UK comparisons. Looking at the chart (on Page 14 of the report which you can access here), some key differences are apparent.

“A greater number of US respondents view manufacturing as high-tech (18% higher), with better wages (28% higher) and requiring high skills (23% higher). Perhaps most worryingly is that while 33% of US respondents would encourage their children to have a career in manufacturing, only 20% of UK respondents would do the same.”

So despite some rumblings of encouragement from the UK, I’m disappointed that one of the European nations that is not in the turmoil that over half of the Eurozone is in, is still way behind (to my mind) in comparison to the US in terms of attitude to manufacturing. Looks like I made the right move to come over here – manufacturing is coming back, and the US is leading the way!

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