It takes skill to remain competitive

In the last decades, European manufacturing industries have gone through intense change. Technological change not only heavily affected the stock of workers employed in manufacturing but more importantly, impacted on the nature of skill demanded. Manufacturing has also experienced significant transformation as a result of globalisation: it has been the subject of an intense international reorganisation driven crucially by firms’ offshoring strategies. The relocation of activities away from the domestic base is eroding the skill base. This has raised concerns over a mismatch between firms’ skill needs and a persistent skill shortage caused by inadequate training and skilling responsiveness.

British firms’ competitiveness depends on their ability to access and attract the necessary human capital effectively. These new challenges need to be addressed through effective collaborations bringing together the education system, the government and companies. Upskilling the labour force in key manufacturing industries must be a game-changer for the UK.

SkillUP is a research project looking at the demand and supply of skills in European advanced manufacturing industries. Lead by Dr Mariachiara Barzotto and Professor Lisa De Propris at the Birmingham Business School, University of Birmingham, SkillUP will contribute to better understand:

  • what mix of skills manufacturing firms need to be innovative and competitive;
  • what education and training need to be put in place to ensure that workforce skill development matches industry demand.

SkillUP delivers evidence based policy recommendations in the form of a toolkit to:

  • design and implement effective skills development interventions (such as: educational/training programmes),
  • enhance employability (jobs created and jobs filled),
  • bridging industries and education system,
  • promote a smart and inclusive economic growth of Europe.

Dr Mariachiara Barzotto and Professor Lisa De Propris are seeking manufacturers’ view by interviews in the engineering, new materials, biotech, apparel, textiles and furniture firms with HQ in the UK, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Sweden.

In recognition of participation, all contributors will be sent a copy of the published final report and invited to the final event along with policy institutions. The resulting overall research will inform policy makers in the areas of skills development in Industry 4.0 in Europe.

If you are interested in participating in the study and finding out more about workforce skill development in Europe, please email Specific enquiries can be directed to Dr Mariachiara Barzotto at Follow our activities on the SkillUP website and on Twitter.

About SkillUP team

Mariachiara Barzotto is a Post-Doctoral International Fellow at the Birmingham Business School. Before joining the School, she has been a visiting Ph.D. student and research collaborator at Cass Business School (UK). She obtained her Ph.D. degree at Ca’ Foscari University Venice (Italy), where she worked as a Post-Doctoral researcher. Her research interests and work experience mainly focus on organisation of global value chains, international competitiveness, EU industrial policy and employment in advanced economies - including skill misalignments and skill development in high-income countries.

Lisa De Propris is Professor of Regional Economic Development at the Birmingham Business School. Her main research interests are: small firms and clusters, competitiveness in clusters and regions, forms of clusters and governance, innovation, clusters and foreign direct investment, regional development, knowledge economy and clusters. In parallel, she has been concerned with the role of the government and institutions, and has looked at policy implications. She has made a distinctive contribution through her involvement in scholarly debate, she has extensively published in top-ranked journals.