Manufacturing workforce

An ageing workforce is a great resource

The ageing workforce is an increasing issue facing modern manufacturing in the UK. Consider your own businesses and think about the age of your current employees.

Approximately 40% of the manufacturing workforce are aged 50+ and will look to retire before too long. Manufacturers should take steps now to make sure their businesses encourage employees to stay longer in their business and develop a talented future workforce.

Retaining older workers is great for business. They’ve got the experience that new staff lack, and by implementing a mentoring scheme, new employees will make fewer mistakes under experienced guidance and learn practical industry tips. Older workers are often less inclined to change jobs than younger colleagues too, helping you stay ahead of the skills gap.

So, what can you do to encourage older employees to stay?

You could introduce flexible working – the 9-5 isn’t important as long as the work gets done. Allow your employees time to attend appointments during the day or offer staggered shifts. Bursts of shorter shifts maximise productivity and limit the damage done by repetitive tasks, especially in older workers. You could offer reduced hours for workers of retirement age rather than lose their experience completely.

Why not take simple steps to reduce strain for your employees and make your working environment better for all?

Things like ensuring good lighting in the workspace can decrease errors by up to 60% as well as prevent eye-strain and headaches.

Employees are much more likely to work longer and be more loyal to you if you invest time and money in their personal and professional development and take steps to improve their work environment. Training can be expensive, but by showing your employees you value them and encouraging them to stay makes great use of your training investment.

Investing in training and new systems can significantly increase the productivity of your staff and make your business more profitable. New technologies not only make your business more efficient and less costly, but they’ll likely make your employees' work days easier, provided that the change is managed effectively and the appropriate training is provided.

Programmes like Digital Advantage, Product and Process Innovation and SparkFund can help you find the funding and training you need to be able to purchase or develop new technologies and train your staff to use them.

To help alleviate some of the pressures of finding and funding training courses for your employees, there are several programmes that you can access through How’s Business, the Growth Hub for York, North Yorkshire and East Riding.

How’s Business can speak with you about your training and funding needs, and can connect you with support providers, saving you time and opening up access to new growth opportunities. Skills Support for the Workforce is just one of the great programmes that How’s Business works with, and it provides fully funded training for growing businesses.

The Skills Support for the Workforce programme ensures that you are able to train your staff to grow and develop your business. They conduct a skills gap analysis to understand what training current employees need and identify future skills needs. A bespoke training plan is designed for each business in order to up-skill their workforce focusing on intermediate, technical and higher skills development.

As part of Skills Support for the Workforce, the Higher Skills programme offers training to support advanced qualifications. Often, workers are incredibly technically skilled and show great potential for promotion but lack more academic skills like English and Maths that are necessary to progress to higher training. In the case of ageing employees, progressing them out of labour intensive positions to higher roles can incentivise and enable older workers to remain longer with your business.

If you’d like to find out more about what skills support is available to you, as well as other funding programmes, get in touch with How’s Business, the Growth Hub for York, North Yorkshire and East Riding. How’s Business provide a single point of contact to help you find the specific funding and support you need for your business. To see what support you might qualify for, email the How’s Business team at