The short-life Equalities and Wellbeing in Manufacturing Working Group has been tasked with producing independent recommendations for the manufacturing sector. When I was asked to Chair it, I was absolutely delighted at the prospect, and was humbled to be asked to be a part of this initiative. Increasing workplace inclusivity, diversity and inclusion (including through an intersectional lens) to create fairer workplace cultures has long been a passion of mine, and working with representatives from industry, trade unions and academia who also believe in furthering equality and improving wellbeing in the manufacturing sector has been a thrilling and insightful experience.
Over the past six months, the Group has discussed how to encourage greater equality in the manufacturing sector, specifically focusing on three priority areas of Leadership, Mental Health & Wellbeing (MHW), and Flexible Working. We also heard from industry experts and those with lived experiences through a series of presentations, helping to further stimulate discussion which led to the development of recommendations to help – and challenge – employers to drive cultural change, and increase equality, inclusivity, and diversity.
The manufacturing sector is a crucial part of Scotland's economy, directly supporting 178,000 jobs and contributing £12.8 billion in GVA per year. The sector responded brilliantly to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and will be vital to enabling Scotland's Net Zero ambitions.
However, research and evidence show that we have much work to do on inclusion and representation. The manufacturing sector workforce is predominantly white (98%), male (76.6%), and ageing (36.5%). There are also worrying reports of increased mental health issues amongst employees, with one in five UK engineers saying in 2019 they have lost a work colleague to suicide, and currently less than 15% of manufacturing organisations assess risks to mental health.
This wellbeing need is also well aligned to recruitment and retention. Key to creating a strong future manufacturing workforce is the ability to attract and retain talented people from diverse backgrounds but we are currently failing. For example, 5.4% of the total Scottish working age population identify as ethnic minority (4.6% are in employment), but just 1.9% of workers in the manufacturing sector identify as an ethnic minority. Graduates from BAME backgrounds are between 5% and 15% less likely to become employed compared to graduates from other backgrounds. Specific barriers for graduates entering the manufacturing and engineering sector include stereotyping, a lack of role models and fewer opportunities of work experience.
The recommendations in this report are intended to be used and adopted by manufacturers and other actors in the sector to create lasting change within their organisations. Following these will greatly increase the chances of creating an environment more likely to attract and retain staff, and ensure the relevant tools are in place to help employer's better support their employees. Each section of the report highlights the current state of play within the sector regarding Leadership, MHW and Flexible Working, why employers might want to adopt new practices in these areas, and what measures employers can adopt to encourage greater equality and wellbeing practices throughout the manufacturing sector.
It is not a lengthy report and is easily accessible to employers.
My love of working in the engineering sector also means recognising, identifying, and calling out the very real issues we have within the sector, and it is about time we begin to see more rapid and tangible change. The very nature of these sectors is built upon innovation and the need to keep up with a changing world, and only by recognising that productivity and inclusivity are complimentary can we deliver change for our most important asset. Our people.
There is a problem
Thanks for your feedback