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Sector Information

The process and manufacturing sector is represented by Proskills Sector Skills Council, which includes:

  • Building Products
  • Coatings
  • Extractive and Mineral Process
  • Furniture, furnishings and interiors
  • Glass and related industries
  • Glazed ceramics
  • Paper
  • Print
  • Wood

The core process and manufacturing sector employs 547,000 employees, plus 89,000 employees in the wood sub-sector. There are 34,000 workplaces in the process and manufacturing sector, excluding the wood sub-sector, which has 10,000 companies.

There are a significant number of other industries which are part of the process and manufacturing sector, but are on the periphery including: glazing and window manufacture; soft furnishings; design; paper merchants; and mining services. If these industries are included then there are 810,000 employees and 79,600 workplaces (excluding Wood).

Source: Proskills AACS LMI Report 2010, Proskills Sector Skills Assessment 2010 and The 2009 Employer Survey – Wood


Sector profile

Since 1998, there has been a steady decline in the numbers employed in the sector as a whole and the number of workplaces, but productivity in the sector has continued to increase over the same period. Overall, the sector will need to recruit almost 93,000 people up to 2017 to replace those retiring or leaving the sector.

Productivity in terms of Gross Value Added across the sector is high and is set to continue to increase. It is around £42,000 per head, compared with £31,000 per head in the UK. This trend is forecast to continue as more efficient and effective working methods become the norm. Modern working practices and advances in technology in the sector will mean that businesses will become more automated over the coming years.

Source: Proskills AACS LMI Report 2010 and Proskills Sector Skills Assessment 2010

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Sector workplaces

There are 34,000 workplaces in the sector, excluding the wood sub-sector. Around 80% of the companies have fewer than 10 employees. Although only 1% of companies have more than 200 employees, they represent around a quarter of the total workforce. There are a large number of multinational organisations, but none employ more than 10,000 in the UK.

For the majority of companies in the sector (62%) there was little change in the size of the workforce during 2008, for 29% of companies their workforce decreased and for 9% their workforce increased. Larger companies were more likely to have suffered decreases in their workforces than smaller companies.

Companies in the building products (42%), glass and related industries (38%) and extractive and mineral processing (36%) sub-sectors were the most likely to have experienced a decrease in their workforce.

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

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Employment trends

In 2009, the number of vacancies was down to 6%, compared to 16% in 2006. The recession is likely to be a major cause. However in the last 12 months, 62% of employers reported no change in their workforce size, 28% reported that the size of the workforce had decreased and 9% reported an increase.

Although there overall size of the sector workforce is forecast to decrease over the next ten years, there will still be a need for almost 93,000 extra people up to 2017. Over the same period, there is a forecast fall in the number of lower level occupations, but a rise in demand for higher level skills.

Key statistics:

  • The building products (42%), glass (38%) and extractive and mineral processing (36%) industries were the most likely to have experienced a decrease in their workforce.
  • One in five coatings firms (20%) has experienced an increase in the size of their workforce.
  • The workforce is also more likely than average to have grown in the glass sub-sector (16%).
  • Larger companies are more likely to have suffered decreases in their workforces than smaller companies.
  • 14% of Welsh employers reported recent workforce growth, compared with 10% of those in Northern Ireland, 9% in England and 8% in Scotland.
  • The highest incidence of a workforce contraction was found within Northern Ireland (34%).

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

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Recruitment and hard-to-fill vacancies

In 2009, 5% of sector employers reported having vacancies. 21% of organisations with more than 200 employees had 3 or more vacancies and 13%had 7 or more. There is little variation in reporting by country and sub-sector; differences will be largely due to organisation size and impact of the economic situation.

The proportion of organisations with current vacancies varies between 11% of ceramics companies and 4% of building products and furniture companies. Vacancies are most likely to be reported within skilled trades occupations (37% of organisations with current vacancies) and vacancies in these occupations account for just under a third of all current vacancies (31% of all vacancies reported).

34% of employers reporting any vacancies reported having vacancies that are proving hard-to-fill. However, this equates to just 2% of all employers in the sample. The highest proportion of all hard-to-fill vacancies is found in process, plant and machine operative occupations and in skilled trades occupations.

Source: The 2009 Employer Survey

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Sector drivers

The economy – the image of the recession, a lack of credit, a lack of demand for products, increasing energy costs, and increased competition domestically (and internationally for some industries)

The supply chain to construction – A large proportion of the sector provides products used in the construction sector and business depends largely on the demand from this sector.

Environmental issues and sustainability – High energy usage sub-sectors such as paper, building products, and ceramics manufacturing already have a history of reducing emissions and wastage to drive economic success, and many of the industries in the sector are involved in recycling and efficient product sourcing.

Health and Safety – The current trend is to see the legal and regulatory requirements as the bare minimum standards.

Demographics and recruitment – The sector has an older than average workforce than the UK. Whilst this is due in part to the need for more mature workers in some areas of the sector, there is still a need to attract younger people and to implement succession planning systems.

Globalisation – This is a direct driver for the sector, specifically through: expanding supply chains; accessing new markets and finding opportunities to export services and products to other countries; attracting new capital though either Foreign Direct Investment or being acquired by larger global companies; and the off-shoring of some basic manufacturing processes, and the consequent shift towards added-value services such as design and marketing.

Technology – The use of technology, as a means of increasing productivity and efficiency, is constantly increasing and changing across the sector. This often requires capital major investment and ensuring that qualifications are kept up-to-date.

Source: Proskills Sector Skills Assessment 2010

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