Express & Star

305,000 jobs help make manufacturing key for the West Midlands

The importance of manufacturing in the West Midlands has been underlined by a new report showing it employs 305,000 people across the region – more than one in 10 of the workforce.

Assembly work at the UTAS aerospace factory in Wolverhampton. Manufacturing remains key for the West Midlands, a new EEF report underlines.

The number of highly skilled jobs in the region has grown by 3.7 per cent since 2010 and the West Midlands has the second biggest manufacturing sector in the UK, just behind London and the South East.

And it accounts for nearly a fifth of the region's economy – the West Midlands' total of 14,745 manufacturing companies is the second highest in the UK, against just behind London and the South East.

The figures are revealed in an annual survey published today by accountants BDO and EEF, the manufacturers' organisation.

Charlotte Horobin, region director for EEF in the West Midlands, said: “The report shows that industry continues to have an increasingly vital role to play in the West Midlands. The last year has seen a strong performance with lofty heights being reached in the second half of last year and it is no surprise to see some easing back in the first half of 2018.

“There are well-documented challenges going forward, not least those facing the automotive and construction supply chains. Furthermore, the progress of Brexit negotiations has the potential to be a factor in the future performance of manufacturers in the West Midlands.

"Despite this, those companies that invest and innovate will still have the best long-term prospects and can contribute to raising the productivity performance of the region and the UK as a whole.”

The EEF says the report shows the manufacturing sector 'remains critical' to the health of the West Midlands economy.

Despite a slowdown in growth, average output, total orders and employment balances for the past year all remain healthy, says the EEF, and regional manufacturers have had a strong year.

The West Midlands remains a strong export performer, accounting for 11.9 per cent of total UK manufacturing exports in 2017 – the second highest of any UK region. While 44.1 per cent of those exports to the EU, that is the lowest proportion for any UK region. And the West Midlands exports a higher proportion to North America – 19.9 per cent – and to Asia and Oceania (Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific islands) – 22.7 per cent.

Jon Gilpin, partner and head of manufacturing at BDO in the West Midlands, added: “Local manufacturers have delivered another strong performance. Manufacturing is a real powerhouse sector for our regional economy, creating jobs and opportunities in both domestic and international markets.

“Our export potential is huge but it is crucial that the Government delivers a long-term, practical Industrial Strategy to ensure a positive trading environment for businesses post-Brexit. Importantly, this will give firms the confidence to invest in automation and digitisation to help solve the all-important productivity puzzle.”