The next generation – why collaboration is critical for the future of manufacturing

What are the challenges we currently face?

It’s been recently reported that at every level, from the upskilling of workers on the factory floor to STEM higher education and apprenticeships, the quality and quantity of training and education is deteriorating. And despite Industry 4.0 and the rise in automation, a recent study by Centrify found that 77% of UK workers admitted that they have never received any form of training in cyber skills from their employers. As we begin to fully embrace Industry 4.0 in UK manufacturing, its vital that technical education in the UK is addressed and solutions offered. And as we progress towards an uncertain future with Europe, now is a good time to invest in the workforce of tomorrow – creating a multi-skilled, technically adept and agile workforce to provide the UK with a significant asset ready to do business with the rest of the world. So, what are the challenges we currently face?

next generation


With the current STEM job shortage costing the UK an average £1.5bn per year, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) has taken its place as a must-have skill for today’s students. Schools, colleges and universities are beginning to embrace STEM education as a priority to ensure the next generation of skilled individuals are ready to take their place in the manufacturing workplace.


The Apprentice Levy was initially designed to reverse the decline in apprenticeships seen in the last decades of the 20th century. Promising a pathway to the creation of 3 million apprenticeships by 2020. It is unfortunately now in crisis and at least partially responsible for the skills crash we are currently facing in the UK manufacturing sector. For more on this topic, see here. With the Apprenticeship Levy in crisis, in-house training is needed more than ever to fill the gap to continually upskill employees and ensure they are up to date and tech-savvy as new processes and more automation fills the marketplace.


It’s a sad fact that many people still have an antiquated view of manufacturing and consider it an undesirable career choice, with technical education viewed as a poor runner up to other, perceivably more glamorous, career choices. But manufacturing has moved on from the early post-industrial days. At the forefront of technology, with involvement in everything from gas and oil production, to pharmaceuticals and Formula One, manufacturing offers diverse career paths from design engineering to operational processes.


Skilled individuals joining a business are its lifeblood; critical to its future success. Working in partnership with universities can ensure a steady talent pipeline feeding the manufacturing sector and enabling new talent to help shape the future of manufacturing. There has been a recent rise in the number of businesses in the manufacturing sector working collaboratively with educational institutions. These partnerships help forge the crucial connection between education and industry and allow for fresh, innovative thinking that new blood brings to a business, alongside the practical skillset needed for successful careers in manufacturing. Here at Croft Filters, we understand the value of skilled employees, and that to stay ahead of the competition, it’s critical to be ready to innovate and deliver new ideas consistently. That’s why Croft Filters work in collaboration with the Centre for Global Eco-Innovation at Lancaster University and their postgraduate researchers, to support a new generation of students with PhD support and practical experience in our Year in Industry placement. The benefits are not only to the student, who gains the opportunity to work in ‘real-life’ scenarios and learn from the experience of placements but for the employer who sees benefits such as the lessons learned for future innovative applications from the studies that they fund. Exploring new ideas, developing new products and contributing to the educational courses for the next generation will see the manufacturing industry in the UK propelled forward to be ready to do business across the globe.