in Aerospace / Defence

APM survey reveals skills gap getting worse

Posted 1 February 2024

Ahead of National Apprenticeship Week 2024 (5th-11th February), the Association for Project Management (APM) surveyed over 1,000 project management professionals in several UK sectors including manufacturing in a poll carried out by national research company Censuswide.

Above: Adam Boddison, Chief Executive of the Association for Project Management (APM).
Courtesy APM

The new survey by the APM - the chartered membership organisation for the project profession - found one in three project managers who work in manufacturing think the skills gap in their sector is getting worse and over half believe apprenticeships are the best way to fix the problem.

When asked if they thought the skills gap was getting better or worse in their sector, 34% of the manufacturing project managers said getting worse. This was the third-highest figure out of 17 sectors polled, in contrast to other sectors such as construction (4%), aerospace and defence (6%) and transport and logistics (10%). The survey average was 13%.

In addition, 39% of the manufacturing project managers said the skills gap was staying the same. Another 18% said it was getting better and 9% said there was not a skills gap in their sector.

The skills gap is generally defined as the disparity between the skills that employers need or find desirable, and the skills possessed by employees or prospective workers, to meet job role demands. The term was coined in the late 1990s and multiple sectors have long raised concerns over the issue, exacerbated by globalisation, the pace of technological change, and specialised skillsets required.

The manufacturing project managers who thought the skills gap was getting worse said long-term solutions to bridging the problem over the next five years were through apprenticeship programmes (selected by 53%). This was followed by wider recruitment and additional training at college, university or apprenticeships (both 45%), as well as on-the-job training (41%).

Meanwhile, 9% of the manufacturing project managers said their organisation does not run an apprenticeship programme for project professionals.

Professor Adam Boddison OBE, Chief Executive of APM, said: “For decades, the UK has been beset with skills shortages caused by many entrenched and complex reasons, from digital transformation to post-Covid effects, and it is alarming that one in three project management professionals in the manufacturing sector think the problem is getting worse in 2024, despite all the well-publicised and well-intended initiatives in recent years.

“This year’s theme for National Apprenticeship Week is ‘Skills for Life’ and manufacturers should embrace a culture of constant upskilling and retraining, with artificial intelligence, e-commerce and automation transforming how we live and work at a rapidly increasing rate.

“And while it is positive to see many manufacturers investing in skills by offering apprenticeships, there is a sizeable minority who aren’t doing so currently. Apprenticeships are a fantastic way to help plug the skills gap since they blend a professional qualification with supported learning and development while in a full-time role.

“As the chartered body for the profession, APM champions greater professionalism in projects and driving a better understanding of the importance of the use of expert project professionals in project delivery.”

The survey also found that 10% of manufacturing project managers believe there was not enough skilled project professionals to deliver projects successfully in their sector and region.

Adaptability/flexibility, communication, and digital (all 33%) were the highest-rated options when respondents were asked to pick which skills are most needed, followed by risk management and leadership (both 27%).

To learn more about APM qualifications and training, apprenticeships and degree courses in project management, visit:






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