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Northern Ireland

There are around 2,100 companies employing 15,000 people in the Northern Ireland process and manufacturing sector.

Overall, the sector in Northern Ireland has experienced a significant downturn since 2008, with 46% of companies reporting a decrease in business and 34% having reduced their workforce. Northern Irish companies appear to have been affected worst. However, for many companies business has either stayed the same or increased, and most are still maintaining their workforce level.

The outlook for the future is more positive, with fewer expecting their business and workforce to decrease and more expecting it to remain the same.

Workforce statistics:

  • 81% of the workforce is male.
  • 97% of the workforce is white.
  • 95% of the workforce is employed full-time.
  • The largest age band of the workforce is 35-44 years old (31% of total sector in Northern Ireland).
  • 25% of the workforce is 25- 34 years of age.

Around 34% of Northern Irish employees fall into the process, plant and machine operatives occupational category and a similar percentage (31%) are classed as “skilled trades. Forecasts for the sector suggest higher level roles will increase.

Companies face some serious issues in the future, in particular a continuing lack of demand for their products and difficulty in getting credit. However they are taking some positive measures including developing new products and finding new markets.

Recruitment of new staff is significantly lower than in previous years, so few companies report vacancies. However, the number reporting skill gaps within their existing workforce remains quite high at 11%. The main gaps are amongst operatives, skilled trades and managers. The gaps are mainly in technical or practical skills and are attributed to a lack of experience. The main response to skill gaps is training, and companies appear to be maintaining their efforts in terms of numbers involved and the money spent.

Source: Proskills Sector Skills Assessment – Northern Ireland 2010 and The 2009 Employer Survey – Northern Ireland


Sector profile in Northern Ireland, 2009

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Source: Proskills Sector Skills Assessment – Northern Ireland 2010, Table 1. Data based on Proskills estimates.