Manufacturers must work harder to attract older workers to the industry and hold on to them - or face a serious skills shortfall in years to come, according to sector skills council Improve.

Improve said official statistics showed there was expected to be a sharp rise in average ages over the next 40 years.

It urged employers to take a more flexible approach and consider shorter hours, part-time contracts, and opportunities to work from home.

Jack Matthews, chief executive of Improve, said: "With the sector experiencing continued difficulty in recruiting younger workers, employers must make retention of older staff a priority. There are 56,000 workers expected to retire from the manufacturing sector over the next eight years, but at the current levels of recruitment there won't be enough new starters to fill the vacancies this creates.

"This will result in skills shortages and skills gaps as the knowledge of these older workers is lost."