The Case for Collaborative Change to address UK Manufacturing’s Skills Gaps


In August 2020 a letter was sent to the Secretary of State for Education regarding the skills crisis facing all sectors of UK Manufacturing because of the Coronavirus pandemic. This was the first time that signatories from across the whole of Manufacturing had come together to not only speak with one voice but with a commitment to work collectively to improve the situation and ensure that manufacturing in all its many forms has the talent it needs to rebound successfully post-pandemic and post-Brexit.The signatories to the letter felt strongly that part of the solution to the unprecedented challenges facing UK manufacturers was to establish a National Skills Task Force comprising representatives from Industry and trade unions to work with Government colleagues from DfE, BEIS and HMT and other stakeholders.The National Manufacturing Skills Task Force has now been formed with the original 16 signatories of the letter committed to its aims and objectives and collectively making a positive impact to the skills challenges facing all of the sectors of Manufacturing.

The Manufacturing Powerhouse

Manufacturing is of strategic importance to the UK, not just in terms of its contribution to the UK economy but also in its determination to drive innovation, productivity and develop individuals with high quality, transferable skills that can add value irrespective of their role or area of manufacturing.

The UK is the world’s 9th leading manufacturing economy delivering £191 billion of outputs in 2020/21 and representing 53% of the UK’s total exports.The UK manufacturing sector employs 2.7 million people with salaries on average 13% higher than the rest of the economy. Manufacturing contributes 65% of R&D and 16% of business investment in the UK.

Strength in Numbers and a Unified Vision

2020 was a unique year for a number of reasons but it also marked a significant alignment of organisations representing the breadth of Manufacturing and who represent both employers and the individuals who work for them.

  • ADS Group

  • British Ceramic Confederation

  • British Plastics Federation

  • Chemical Industries Association

  • Cogent Skills

  • CSEU

  • Construction Equipment Association

  • Engineering and Machinery Alliance

  • Enginuity

  • Food & Drink Federation

  • HVMC

  • Make UK

  • Make UK Defence

  • National Skills Academy: Food & Drink

  • SMMT

  • TUC

  • UK Metals

  • UK Steel

  • Chairs of Auto, Aero and Defence Skills Working Groups

The National Manufacturing Skills Task Force is not exclusive to the original signatories of the call to establish such a body. It is inclusive and welcomes participation from organisations who are committed to providing cross manufacturing strategic leadership on skills, maximising collaborative opportunity, facilitating practical and impactful change and interventions and promoting the role of the taskforce to manufacturing employers and individuals.In pursuit of this, an open invitation will be extended to Government and any other organisation who wishes to “roll up their sleeves” and get involved for the greater good of Manufacturing as a whole and UK plc.


The National Manufacturing Skills Task Force is the catalyst for Manufacturing – bringing strategic leadership, critical mass, and a unified and strong voice to address the critical shared skills challenges. The principal aim of the task force is to work in unison to ensure that Manufacturing both retains and attracts the skills and talent it needs now and in the future.Convening clear proposals for intervention, this unique forum will seek to work in partnership with Government and others, to facilitate at pace practical action and solutions to address skills priorities.

What makes us different

  • Organisations representing breadth of Manufacturing (2.7m UK employees, £191 billion in outputs), and trade unions working together at a national and local level, united to address common skills issues focused on areas of common ground: – Apprenticeships / new entrants – Existing workforce both in work and displaced: digital skills, net zero – Optimal use of the apprenticeship levy – Providing Government with considerations for policy reform that would benefit all or a significant number of sectors of Manufacturing

  • A cross sectoral partnership uniquely placed to work alongside Government (DfE, BEIS, DCMS, DWP) in support of the Government’s ambitions and particularly as a critical friend in the development and implementation of the proposals within the DfE FE White Paper

  • Emphasising the shared skills issues across all of Manufacturing whilst recognising the individual nuances of the sectors within it

  • Working collaboratively for the common good of Manufacturing whilst respecting the individual members need for an individual voice

  • Employer groups, trade unions and skills bodies working together committed to delivering on common agendas

  • A focal point for discussion and intervention between employers and individuals across manufacturing with Government departments


  • To communicate the purpose and key messages of the Skills Task Force with employers, individuals and Government becoming a key intersection for the sector between these three groups of stakeholders.

  • To provide strategic leadership and work collaboratively on areas of common interest, presenting clear and sound evidence-based proposals to Government for investment or changes to policy and offering potential solutions and methods of delivery.

  • Clearly articulating to education providers the needs of manufacturing enabling them to deliver training and an education curriculum with confidence that they are developing what employers need, what will have currency in the labour market and what will lead to employment.

  • To agree areas of common ground and key principles and commit to consistent and single messages to Government and others demonstrating a strong and aligned group covering all of Manufacturing.

  • Communicate and demonstrate the variety and importance of manufacturing to the Government and other stakeholders.

  • Focuses on talent retention and upskilling through sectoral cycles and employment peaks and troughs to ensure that skills and talent are retained within Manufacturing.

  • Shares best practice and resources ensuring that manufacturing retains, attracts and develops the skills and talent it needs to be successful irrespective of industry sector. Building a directory of high quality, impactful resources.

  • Works with partners to maximise the benefit to manufacturing of other initiatives that support the purpose and objectives of the task force.


Collectively addressing common skills issues unifies the members of the National Manufacturing Skills Task Force. Effort and resource is currently being exerted by the individual members to tackle many of the same issues. The task force does not wish to replace these individual initiatives but as the saying goes “many hands make light work” and the convening power of the National Manufacturing Skills Task Force gives Manufacturing the opportunity to pool effort and resource and tackle common issues “with the sum of the whole being greater than its parts”.Opportunities to share and co-create include:

  • Collaboration between the various skills and policy groups on areas of commonality

  • Sharing of key messages on Government consultations / submissions that align with the aims of the task force and creating responses under the umbrella of the skills task force to bring the might of the sector in representing the common messages

  • Understanding what currently exists across the task force and sharing existing materials and best practice relating to common areas of concern

  • Centralised repository for organisations, training courses, resources that can be evidenced to add value to employers and individuals

  • Collectively bid for funding and/or align around proposals to Government that address the common themes

  • Combined investment in activities that can then be shared with wider sector / other sectors at a cost to them

The Value for Employers and Members

  • The National Manufacturing Skills Task Force is founded around the concept of partnership and cooperation bringing together manufacturing as a whole, employers and trade unions to work collectively to address common skills challenges

  • A unique coalition dedicated to ensuring that the employers and individuals within the sector have the skills that they need for individual success but also to ensure that manufacturing can bounce back

  • A strong and single voice to represent manufacturing’s skills needs to Government and wider stakeholders and raise the collective importance of manufacturing

  • A coordinated approach is critical to making headway in addressing the critical skills issues shared across manufacturing. By working together resources, ideas and best practice can be shared ensuring that the weight of the entire sector is behind practical solutions to address common skills priorities. Sixteen organisations focused on tackling a common skills issue is far more effective than a single organisation going it alone

  • By being part of the task force individual members can leverage all that is common and shared across manufacturing whilst also recognising, appreciating and supporting individual differences

Jobs for Growth White Paper

The National Manufacturing Skills Task Force with its manufacturing-wide perspective and evidence base is uniquely placed to be the manufacturing partner for the DfE in regard to the FE White Paper and its proposals.

  • As business representative organisations working alongside the trade unions, the task force can play a key role in informing the Local Skills Implementation Plans

  • Encouraging employer members to strengthen links with local FE provision as part of the Workforce Industry Exchange programme.

  • Supported by skills experts such as Enginuity and Cogent be actively involved in the development of employer-led apprenticeship standards

  • Evidential feedback from employers and trade union members to inform the College Business Centres and where their focus should be

  • Actively support the piloting of the HVMC Skills Value Chain of which members of the task force have already been involved to-date. Opportunity to expand across the manufacturing coverage of the wider taskforce

  • Develop a manufacturing landscape of employer involvement and support of skills, apprenticeship and technical education attainment

Get Involved

The task force has a unified and ambitious vision to drive the interventions needed in the UK manufacturing sector. We don't underestimate the scale of the challenge, and welcome the support of other organisations who can help us achieve the task force's vision.

© The National Manufacturing Skills Taskforce 2021