How Modernising Manufacturers Can Help to Mind the Gap


Andrew Walker is Director of Business Engagement at the MADE Project – a suite of European funded projects, delivered by University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) through its research Centre for Advanced Batch Manufacture (CBM). He shares his insights with Business News Wales into how the adoption of new methods and technologies within manufacturing can help us close the skills gap.

The much talked-about skills gap has long been the Achilles Heel of manufacturing, and, here in Wales, it is felt particularly acutely in rural areas, away from the major cities.

But manufacturing accounts for around 15 percent of total employment in Wales and, if we are to thrive economically, it is vital that we grasp the nettle. Any sustained lack of pipeline of talent will, of course, undermine the competitiveness of Welsh manufacturers and hinder their ability to innovate and modernise – and to remain competitive. So, all efforts must be focused on closing this gap.

Thanks to a number of prevailing factors, industry shifts, and technological advances, we may be better placed than ever to solve this issue. The reasons for the skills gap are well known. People still labour under the misconception that:

  • Manufacturing is low-skilled, dirty and repetitive
  • Manufacturers are not ‘making a difference’
  • Manufacturing is a male-only environment
  • It offers only low paid work

We all need to work harder to bust these myths. Manufacturing is, in fact, a high skilled, high-tech environment with a constant emphasis on quality, efficiency and innovation. Far from being an unsatisfying career, manufacturers and engineers are making the very stuff of our modern world – the life-changing medical equipment, the next generation transport, the technology that is supporting those advances in renewables that are heralding a new modern era. If any sector is changing lives and the world around us, it is manufacturing.

Manufacturing has always been a broad church, with many kinds of roles on offer for the workforce. But these are particularly exciting times for new, tech-savvy job-seekers with an affinity for new and emerging technology. This is particularly the case since the spread of digital and manufacturing technologies is blurring the traditional lines between manufacturing and service businesses in the digital sector.

Traditional makers and manufacturers in automotive, for example, are investing heavily in new, connected car technologies. Big data is wedding manufacturing to services, and workforces need to be agile, adaptable and tech savvy to take part in this creeping change.

Disruptive technologies are bringing about evolutionary changes that young people are ideally placed to help deliver, for the good of our economy here in Wales. Across Europe we are seeing any number of firms with roots in traditional manufacturing and hardware reshaping their business, so it is founded upon software and data. This change might see, for example, a manufacturer use data to help customers manage their production, order supplies, schedule workloads, or to predict when machines will need replacement parts.

For our part, here at the MADE project, we are supporting eligible manufacturers in Wales to recognise and embrace the advantages offered by disruptive technologies, and to upskill their workforces in using them for the good of their organisations. The key to unlocking a successful future is more of this kind of partnership working – a combined effort by companies across Wales’ supply chains, schools, further and higher education institutions and government to make education and training relevant.

Radical changes are afoot within manufacturing, enabling an influx of new talent into industry, attracted by careers that are challenging, cutting edge, lucrative and satisfying.

For further details about the MADE Project, which is supported by the Welsh Government and the European Regional Development Fund, and by the European Structural and Investment Funds, go to:


Advanced Design Engineering (50:50 collaboration. Match with employees time, and no cash cost to the company)

This project is focused on helping Welsh SMEs in the supply chain network to realise the benefits of new technologies in a practical way, piloting applications of technology such as electron beam melting, additive layer manufacturing, 3D scanning/reverse engineering, vacuum casting and product development.

Upskilling for Industry 4.0:Wales (up to 70% EU Funded*) – Advanced Manufacturing

These qualifications are delivered using a blended learning approach, helping organisations overcome the hype of Industry 4.0 and focus on clear, deliverable technologies that participants can use in their organisations straight away, giving the skills they need to deliver authentic economic benefit.

IIM: International Innovation Management (up to 70% EU funded*)

This Masters programme seeks to produce managers with an international perspective who understand how to bring innovative products and services to market, how companies can introduce and exploit innovation, and how new commercial opportunities can be identified and realised.

Both programmes are at Masters level, through modular bite-size learning, which students can access in a hop-on / hop-off style, as there are multiple entry points during the calendar year, enabling participants to give value for their organisations and still balance their work and other commitments.

*subject to eligibility
The suite of projects has been supported by the European Social Fund through the Welsh Government and supported by the European Regional Development Fund.

Peirianneg Dylunio Uwch (cydweithrediad 50:50. Cyfateb gydag amser gweithwyr, dim cost ariannol i’r cwmni)

Mae’r prosiect yn ffocysu ar helpu Busnesau Bach a Chanolig Cymru yn y rhwydwaith dolen gyflenwi i wireddu buddion technolegau newydd mewn ffordd ymarferol, peilota’r defnydd o dechnoleg megis toddi pelydrau electronau, gweithgynhyrchu haenau ychwanegol, sganio 3D/ôl-saernïo, castio gwactod a datblygu cynnyrch.

Uwchsgilio ar gyfer diwydiant 4.0: Cymru (Wedi’i gyllido gan yr UE hyd at 70%*) – Uwch Gynhyrchu

Mae’r cymwysterau hyn yn cael eu cyflwyno gan ddefnyddio dull dysgu cyfunol, yn helpu sefydliadau i ymdopi â heip Diwydiant 4.0 a ffocysu ar dechnolegau clir, danfonadwy y gall cyfranogwyr eu defnyddio ar unwaith yn eu sefydliadau, gan rhoi iddyn nhw’r sgiliau sydd eu hangen i ddarparu buddion economaidd dilys.

IIM: Rheoli Arloesedd Rhyngwladol (Wedi’i gyllido gan yr UE hyd at 70*)

Mae’r rhaglen Meistr yn anelu at gynhyrchu rheolwyr gyda golwg ryngwladol sy’n deall sut i ddod â nwyddau a gwasanaethau arloesol i’r farchnad, sut y gall cwmnïau gyflwyno a gwneud y mwyaf o arloesedd, a sut y gellir adnabod a gwireddu cyfleoedd masnachol newydd.

Mae’r ddwy raglen ar lefel Meistr, drwy ddysgu modiwlaidd mewn darnau bach, y mae myfyrwyr yn gallu mynd atynt unrhyw bryd, gan bod nifer o bwyntiau ymuno yn ystod y flwyddyn galendr, gan olygu bod cyfranogwyr yn gallu rhoi gwerth i’w sefydliadau a chydbwyso eu gwaith a’u hymrwymiadau eraill ar yr un pryd.

*yn amodol ar gymhwystra
Mae’r gyfres hon o brosiectau wedi ei chefnogi gan Gronfa Cymdeithasol Ewrop drwy Lywodraeth Cymru a’i chefnogi gan Gronfa Datblygu Rhanbarthol Ewrop.


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