Introduction to Manufacturing
Manufacturing is the process of turning raw materials into goods. Closely linked to engineering, it covers a wide range of sectors and careers, with the UK manufacturing industry alone contributing 6.7 trillion to the global economy.
Food and drink employs more than 400,000 workers in the UK, and is the country’s largest manufacturing sector. The remaining sectors include engineering, construction, electronics, chemicals, energy, textiles, metalworking, plastics, transport and telecommunications.
With such a range of sectors and roles on offer, it is one of the most profitable and diverse industries for new graduates today.
What roles are open to me?
From fashion to flutes, some of the hundreds of roles in manufacturing include:
- Construction Plant Mechanic
- Food Packaging Operative
- French Polisher
- Garment Technologist
- Hydrographic Surveyor
- Measurement and Control Technician
- Meat Process Worker
- Model Maker
- Musical Instrument Maker
- Patent Attorney
- Product Designer
- Quarry Operative
- Rail Track Maintenance Worker
- Recycled Metals Worker
- Steel Erector
- Studio Sound Engineer
- Technical Brewer
- Textile Dyeing Technician
- TV or Film Sound Technician
Manufacturing is a vital industry for most companies. Major companies include Nestle, Toyota, Ford, Apple, Cardinal Health, Panasonic, Procter & Gamble, ThyssenKrupp, Bosch, Sony, PepsiCo, Johnson & Johnson, Unilever, Saint-Gobain, Kraft Foods, Hoffman-La Roche, LG Electronics, Coca-Cola, Continental, Kia Motors, Christina Dior, Tyson Foods, Michelin, Fujifilm, Danone and International Paper.
What qualifications and skills do I need?
The qualifications and degree required varies from role to role. Generally, you will need a good degree in a related discipline, although some roles may focus more heavily on practical skills, creativity and experience than qualifications. In addition to your degree, every employer will be looking for skills relevant to the role, which may include communication and interpersonal skills, excellent organisation, time management, problem solving and presentation skills, as well as technical knowledge and creativity. Work experience or an internship in a field or company related to the sector you wish to enter will also be beneficial.
Manufacturing is an excellent field for non-graduates, as there are a wide range of roles that do not require a degree, as well as internships and apprenticeships. For many positions, you may require GCSEs, A-Levels or an HND (Higher National Diploma) or NVQ (National Vocational Qualification). As with graduate roles, employers will also be looking for existing work experience and a range of skills, including communication skills, creativity, problem-solving, time management and interpersonal skills.
In addition to apprenticeships or internships, you may also benefit from on-the-job training sponsored or supported by your employer, although this depends on the role and sector you wish to enter, as well as the company itself.
The application process varies greatly from role to role. For some roles, you may have a reasonably simple application process that requires you to complete an online application and an interview. For others, you may have a multi-stage application process that includes several interviews, tests and assessments. Generally, every role will include some or all of the steps below:
- Online application form
- Initial telephone interview
- Assessment day
- First interview
- Second interview
The average starting salary depends on the role and company in question. For example, the average starting salary for a sign writer might be £18,000 - £24,000 per year. For a trainee steel erector it can be from £14,000 - £19,000, increasing to £20,000 - £28,000 after qualifying. A meat process worker would start at circa £12,500 per year, while a junior product designer would start at £17,000 - £25,000. Your salary will increase in most roles with time and experience, with some senior roles, such as senior product designer, earning up to £60,000 per year, and some senior engineering manufacturing roles earning far more.
Are there any downsides?
Many of the non-technical roles in manufacturing have a low starting salary compared to other industries, and some tasks can be repetitive. Other downsides vary depending on the role in question.
Is it right for me?
With such a wide variety of roles, sectors and companies involved in manufacturing, there is a career that will suit almost every graduate. If you’re keen to be involved in one of the largest and most profitable employments in the UK, and have the creative, technical or practical skills required for your chosen field, it could be the career for you. Visit our Manufacturing forum forum for more information.