UK Metals Sector Faces Challenges and Optimism Amid Rising Energy Prices, Brexit Impact, and Labor Shortages

by Anna

The UK metals industry is grappling with a trio of significant challenges, including escalating energy costs, the consequences of Brexit, and a persistent shortage of skilled labor, as per a forthcoming report scheduled for release next week.

According to the UK Metals Council’s “State of the Metals Industry in the UK 2023/24” survey, nearly 25% of firms have acknowledged making adjustments to their supply chain strategies or exploring alternative sourcing options. Meanwhile, just under 33% of these companies are seeking increased government support to navigate the complex landscape of trade barriers and customs procedures post-Brexit.


In addition to these challenges, a notable 22% of manufacturers are actively pursuing more favorable energy supply contracts to counter rising energy prices. Remarkably, only 31% of businesses have reported having an effective recruitment strategy in place to address the well-documented labor shortages.


Despite these formidable headwinds, the report, set to be officially unveiled during the opening address at the UK Metal Expo in Birmingham on September 13th, highlights some positive sentiments within the industry.


Notably, a resounding 70% of survey respondents expressed optimism, or even high optimism, regarding their future business prospects. This resilient outlook underscores the sector’s ability to innovate and adapt in the face of adversity.


Rachel Eade MBE, Chair of the UK Metals Council, emphasized the industry’s importance in everyday life, from the metals found in homes to transportation and healthcare. She underscored the critical role of metals, especially their recyclability, as the UK moves towards a Net Zero economy.

Eade stated, “Foundation industries will continue to play a critical role in the way we all live, and this vital sector needs a voice to ensure that the Government understands the journey we are on.”

She further explained the rationale behind the report, saying, “The issues they are facing span from supply chain disruption because of Brexit to availability of raw materials and how they can mitigate the cost of energy – a key issue when you consider levels of consumption in our industry.”

Addressing the challenge of attracting new talent to the sector, she added, “Skills and the ability to get new people into our sector is also a challenge that is holding many of them back as they look to support the UK’s desire to move towards Net Zero.”

The UK Metals Council, consisting of 12 trade associations spanning the entire metals supply chain, represents the interests of over 11,000 companies, indirectly employing nearly one million people.

The inaugural “State of the Metals Industry in the UK Report” aims to provide a comprehensive snapshot of the challenges and opportunities facing the domestic metals industry, as well as its potential for growth and sustainability. It will be officially released on Wednesday, September 13th, with its findings intended to shape future government policy and support initiatives. Additionally, the data will be made available for industry specialists, companies, and academia to utilize for research, proposals, and advocacy efforts.

Rachel Eade concluded, “The UK Metals Expo is the perfect place to launch the report, with more than 200 exhibitors and 4,000 industry professionals attending from 52 different countries.” She emphasized the alignment of the event with the UK’s Net Zero goals, relying on advanced materials, manufacturing excellence, and engineering innovation. A robust domestic metals supply chain is seen as pivotal in realizing these objectives, promoting energy-efficient production, fostering circular economy practices, and driving sustainable progress. The report’s findings are expected to be a topic of robust discussion during the expo, with valuable feedback anticipated from attending delegates.

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