Technical managers have a range of responsibilities regarding the production of the goods and the provision of specialised professional and technical services provided by an enterprise or organisation.
- Technical managers are mostly employed in manufacturing, construction, education and health & social care. These 4 sectors represent 57% of their employment.
- Technical managers share a core set of generic management skills relating to the key responsibilities of the occupation.
- In the workplace, autonomy, creativity, resolution, gathering and evaluating information are the most important tasks and skills of technical managers.
- Around 5 million people were employed as technical managers in 2018. Employment in the occupation increased by around 7 per cent between 2006 and 2018.
- Employment in the occupation is projected to grow by around 12 per cent over the period 2018 to 2030. In total, an additional 564,000 jobs will be created.
- In addition, a projected 3 million people are estimated to leave their jobs as technical managers between 2018 and 2030. To meet the projected growth in demand over the same period and replace those workers who will have left the occupation, around 3.5 million job openings will need to be filled.
- Evolving legal and regulatory frameworks necessitate managers to be able to react and adapt to them.
- In 2018, most managers in production and specialised services held high-level qualifications (60 per cent). This is expected to grow over the period to 2030 (67 per cent). The percentage of low- and medium-skilled workers is expected to decrease over the same period.
Tasks and skills
Technical managers1 have a range of responsibilities regarding the production of the goods and the provision of specialised professional and technical services provided by an enterprise or organisation, including: detailed planning, setting of standards and objectives, quality assurance, managing and controlling budgets and costs, overseeing the selection, training and performance of staff, and representing the organisation in negotiations with other agencies and at public events.
According to Eurofound's Job Monitor, autonomy, creativity, resolution, gathering and evaluating information are the most important tasks and skills of technical managers.
Figure 1: Importance of tasks and skills for technical managers
Note: The importance of tasks and skills is measured on 0-1 scale, where 0 means least important and 1 means most important.
What are the trends for the future? 2
The employment level of technical managers is expected to grow by 12 per cent between 2018 and 2030, a further increase following the 7 per cent growth observed between 2006 and 2018. Between 2018 and 2030 it is estimated that there will be an additional 564,000 technical manager jobs created. 19 of analysed European countries are expected to create new jobs for technical managers, while in the remaining 9 countries their employment levels should decline.
Figure 2: Future employment growth of technical managers in European countries (2018-2030, in %)
A projected 3 million people are projected to leave the occupation between 2018 and 2030. These people will need to be replaced 3. When they are added to the projected new jobs that will be created, it is apparent that between 2018 and 2030 an estimated 3.5 million job openings will need to be filled.
Figure 3: Future job openings of technical managers (2018-2030)
In the future, it is likely that people working as technical managers will be increasingly high-qualified. In 2018, 30 per cent of people in the occupation held medium-level qualifications and this is expected to decrease in the period to 2030 when it will stand at 25 per cent. In contrast, the share of workers who are highly qualified will increase from 60 per cent in 2018 to 67 per cent in 2030. This is compensated by a fall in the share accounted for by those with low-level qualifications – from 10 per cent in 2018 to 8 per cent in 2030.
Technical managers are mostly employed in manufacturing, construction, education and health & social care. These 4 sectors represent 57% of their employment. More information on employment trends for this occupation can be found here.
Which drivers of change will affect their skills?
Technical managers share a core set of generic management skills relating to the key responsibilities of the occupation. Additionally, there is a demand for technical skills relevant to the specific industries in which they work.
- Regardless of their sector or line of work, all managers will need to adapt their managing styles and human resource management to the new pool of employees: the demographic structure of workforces, following that of European societies will simultaneously incorporate a new generation of workers, while the median workforce age will climb. Young(er) employees (will) have grown up in a hyper-connected world 4, which shapes the way they perceive communication, speed, teamwork etc. Simultaneously, older employees will have different values and ways of communication and commitment. Being responsible for the corporate or their team’s culture and operability, technical managers will need to have strong yet agile leadership, human capital development and emotional intelligence skills.
- Also in relation to demographic change, businesses and organizations will have to cope with increasing shortage of talent 5. Technical managers will be challenged to make better use of sources they will have at their disposal and to address these shortages by further automation or outsourcing.
- Evolving legal and regulatory frameworks necessitate managers to be able to react and adapt to them 6. Regulatory and legal challenges will be greater for managers in certain sectors, such as financial services, in which more stringent regulation since the financial crisis has brought structural challenges to the sector.
- Technological advances (such as 3D printing, self-optimising production systems) and advances in computer power and Big Data require managers to have technological skills, such as: understanding and deploying an array of new technologies and methodologies; applying new technologies to the organisation’s context; and effective use of ICTs. For example, in the furniture industry there will be a shift in production techniques from handicraft to machine and robot manufacturing 7. Subsequently, managers of furniture factories will have to understand how the new manufacturing processes will affect work plans, design etc. Correspondingly, managers in other sectors will have to effectively utilise different technologies depending on the sector in which they operate.
- The growing trend towards outsourcing of production in advanced manufacturing industries in particular will call for better business management, sourcing and supply chain skills, purchasing, contract negotiation and large scale project management to complement technical skills. 8
- Fast industrialisation of innovative technologies will require production managers to master the full innovation life cycle in a manufacturing context, from the laboratory assessment stages to large scale production. 9 Furthermore, innovation of product and process technologies creates intellectual property that managers must be able to identify, protect and monetise in order to extract their full value.
‘Several companies are developing skills programmes specifically targeted at their current and future leaders, aiming to develop skills such as empowerment, courage and foresight. Leadership can be a fairly broad term in these cases, covering everyone from team leaders to senior Board directors. Often led by the HR function, external providers are also commonly involved in devising and sometimes also delivering these types of programmes. Two companies also incorporated process reviews with these training programmes to ensure sustainability is incorporated into the objectives, job descriptions and performance management of the top ranks’.
Source: Skills for a Sustainable Economy: The Business Perspective 10
- Climate change effects have increased pressures through legislation, changes in consumption and competition for resources that will profoundly change operational management and structure of organisations 11. For example, waste management practices will shift away from land filling and waste incineration to recycling. Managers may need retraining in “green” technologies as they replace older production methods. The core “green” skills that managers will require include environmental awareness and willingness to learn about sustainable development 12.
- Globalisation will continue to expand the global reach of firms’ operations, requiring managers to adapt to dealing with new customers, laws and regulations. Future growth opportunities in emerging markets may also require managers in production to be skilled in creating trade partnerships, better understanding better social and cultural differences of regions in which their companies operate 13 and also to possess better language skills.
- As a part of its Ditigitalization and future of work project, Cedefop estimates the risks of automation for occupations. The most exposed occupations are those with significant share of tasks that can be automated – operation of specialised technical equipment, routine or non-autonomous tasks – and those with a small reliance on communication, collaboration, critical thinking and customer-serving skills. The risk of automation is further accentuated in occupations where employees report little access to professional training that could help them to cope with labour market changes. Technical managers are reportedly an occupation with very low risk of automation.
How can these skill needs be met?
Skill challenge responses can come from within companies, governments or employer’s associations. Companies should aim to address skill gaps by training current staff, though in some cases they may have to look to external recruitment to address internal skills gaps.
For the purpose of preparing current staff to take on management roles, potential candidates within companies for management positions need to be identified at an early stage and entered into a suitable development programme. 14 Some basic management training is required for the development of core management and leadership skills. This can be in-house or external, but is also commonly learnt on the job, and thus can be improved by a mentoring or job-shadowing system. Governments can also have a role in the development of management skills, by providing funding support to SMEs, who often lack the resources to train staff 15.
Aside from core management and leadership skills, technical managers require specialised training depending on the sector in which they operate. Production managers in more technical roles will often require STEM qualifications. To better prepare STEM graduates for future management roles in industry, the gap should be closed between ‘what schools teach and what the job front needs’ 16. For example, access to industry experience in universities could be improved by introducing senior industry professionals into visiting lecturer roles 17. While not all managers will be expected or required to have as deep technical knowledge as some of their more specialist staff, they will require a good grounding in order to understand the challenges and requirements that their staff must meet.
All web-links were last accessed December 2nd, 2019.
 Defined as ILO ISCO 08 group 13 production specialised services managers. ILO (2012) International Standard Classification of Occupations ISCO-08.
 Cedefop Cedefop skills forecast.
 The need to replace workers leaving a profession for various reasons, such as retirement. For more information on replacement demand and how it drives employment across sectors, can be found here.
 Lund, S., Manyika, J. & Robinson, J., 2016, “Managing talent in a digital age”, Mc Kinsey, March 2016, accessed 6 June 2016.
 Strack, R., Baier, J., Marchingo M. & Sharda S., 2014, “The Global Workforce Crisis: $10 Trillion at Risk”, bcg.perspectives, 2 July 2014, accessed 6 June 2016.
 EU Skills Panorama 2014, Managers in services and production, Analytical Highlight.
 European Commission 2012, Investing in the Future of Jobs and Skills – Scenarios, implications and options in anticipation of future skills and knowledge needs – Furniture.
 UK Commission for Employment and Skills 2015, Sector insights: skills and performance challenges in the advanced manufacturing sector.
 Skevi, A, Szigeti, H, Perini, S, Oliveira, M, Taisch, M & Kiritsis D 2014, “Current Skills Gap in Manufacturing: Towards a New Skills Framework for Factories of the Future”, Volume 438 of the series IFIP Advances in Information and Communication Technology, pp. 175-183.
 Ipsos MORI Reputation Centre 2010, Skills for a Sustainable Economy: The Business Perspective.
 International Labour Organization 2012, Greening the global economy – A global view.
 UK Commission for Employment and Skills 2015, Sector insights: skills and performance challenges in the advanced manufacturing sector.
 BIS 2012, Leadership & Management in the UK – The Key to Sustainable Growth.
 Skevi, A, Szigeti, H, Perini, S, Oliveira, M, Taisch, M & Kiritsis D 2014, “Current Skills Gap in Manufacturing: Towards a New Skills Framework for Factories of the Future”, Volume 438 of the series IFIP Advances in Information and Communication Technology pp. 175-183.
 European Wind Energy Technology Platform 2013, Workers Wanted: The EU Wind Energy Sector Skills Gap.