The Manufacturing Institute

Manufacturing the next generation

Stephen Melia, Make It Programme Coordinator

Today’s teenagers need only switch on the TV, if indeed they still do, to hear about the state of the nation’s economy, spiralling youth unemployment figures and the increasing cost of a university education.

At the same time, they’re told that the Government’s plans for recovery are being pinned against a nation that will be carried along on the shoulders of ‘the makers’. 

All of which make it logical for us to assume an employment boom in manufacturing is imminent.

With this in mind, you would imagine that manufacturing companies are able to cherry pick from an array of bright young candidates, keen to stake a claim in an industry that is being placed at the heart of our economic recovery. 

However, at last summer’s ‘Manufacturing skills for the future’ forum at Jaguar Land Rover, I learnt that the reality is manufacturers are still struggling to find skilled workers to fill their vacancies. It seems a growing disconnect exists between our Government’s aspirations for the future economy and those of its future workforce. But why?

Head teachers attending the forum gave the most honest appraisal for this response (or lack of) from our nation’s young people. It seems the brightest students still see success as being ring fenced to careers such as medicine, law and the media whilst manufacturing is typically perceived as boring, dirty and low-paid. In the absence of any mainstream media role models, manufacturing is the victim of a poor image that is threatening the sector’s planned revival. 

Whilst there’s no magic solution to dispel these perceptions, The Manufacturing Institute is working hard to showcase the exciting and rewarding career options that modern manufacturing can offer young people. 

The Make It campaign is a bespoke programme of enterprising challenges designed to break down the stereotypes surrounding manufacturing careers, and connecting young people directly to multinational manufacturers located in their area, including the likes of Siemens, Rolls-Royce, Premier Foods and Sellafield.

The events challenge schools to establish their own mini-manufacturing businesses and design, build and market a product related to a company’s product portfolio ranging from unmanned emergency vehicles to a new cake to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Working in teams, they each take on job roles ranging from managing director to sales and marketing manager before pitching their ideas in a Dragons’ Den-style presentation.

Having worked with over 35,000 young people and 40 business partners since 2006, Make it allows manufacturers to build a pipeline of talent for their future workforces whilst promoting their organisations within the local community and in the media.

What’s more, evaluation shows that young people are twice as likely to consider working in the industry after taking part in an enterprising challenge.

As to the benefits for employers, these can be summed up by Nick Mulhall, MD at RFD Beaufort - Survitec, a key supporter of Make It. “Great talent is vital to help deliver our ambitious growth plans. The Make It events are the single best opportunity for us to engage with young people close to our business and I fully expect that we will be recruiting some of those attending Make It challenges in years to come.”

Stephen Melia is the Make It Programme Coordinator at The Manufacturing Institute. Contact Stephen to find out how you can get involved with Make It or visit the Make It website.

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