Up-skilling or retaining existing staff is the biggest priority for around two thirds of companies questioned (67%) this year, according to a major survey published by Make UK and PwC .
Access to Labour was seen as the biggest risk by almost two thirds of companies (58%) surveyed, while almost nine in ten companies were not just worried about losing skills from their business but, the sector entirely.
Despite the current financial challenges almost half (45%) of companies said they still planned to invest in Apprenticeships in 2022.
The 2022 Make UK/PwC Senior Executive Survey shows the scale of uncertainty facing business in the current turbulent global environment, with more than half of companies saying the biggest challenges facing them had changed in the last twelve months.
Their optimism is also tempered by escalating inflationary pressures.
One year on from leaving the EU, two thirds of companies said that leaving had moderately or significantly hampered their business, with over a half of companies (56%) fearing a further impact this year from customs delays due to import checks and changes in product labelling.
In the face of these challenges, however, the majority of manufacturers suggest that they have weathered the storm of the last couple of years with almost three quarters of companies (73%) now believing conditions for the sector will improve in 2022, with a similar number (73%) believing the opportunities for their business outweigh the risks.
The more positive outlook for growth is reflected across all major markets with 40% of companies forecasting growth in exports to the United States, closely followed by the EU.
Around a quarter (26%) are looking for growth in Asia and around one in five to the Middle East (21%). However, the EU market is set to see the biggest decrease in exports by 10% of companies.
The survey also provides encouraging indicators on the strategies manufacturers are adopting to build resilience and agility into their business by looking at their supply chain, investing in people, innovation and green technologies.
The need to build resilience into business models has been highlighted by supply chain shortages and the survey shows around a third of companies, but some 35% of those surveyed are planning to counter this by using British rather than international suppliers, while almost a third (31%) said they were planning to re-locate some or, more of, their production back to the UK.
The survey also shoed the increasing drive towards net zero for manufacturers.
Half of companies surveyed (49%) said they plan to invest in green technologies or energy efficiency measures in 2022, with a third saying this investment has increased. A third also said the process to transition to net zero had been accelerated by the recent COP 26 Conference in Glasgow.