Are manufacturing and engineering the future?

The UK has a long history of manufacturing and engineering excellence, from metal fabrication to civil engineering. But how has the industry changed over the years and with it the skills and development required to continue to thrive?

January 18, 2016

Is Manufacturing & Engineering The Future

Britain has a well-established and proud heritage in engineering and manufacturing, and despite the globally competitive market we now find ourselves in where producers never cease to fight on price and quality, that heritage continues to flourish. But the giant task which faces manufacturing industries is one which remains unchanged: how best to attract the best young minds to come on board to help British manufacturing maintain its place on the world stage and grow to further heights?

One thing is certain: there is still plenty of work to be done to encourage future 21st century recruits that industry is a worthy career for them and not, as many might think, something that happens in echoing dark rooms full of noise and health hazards!

The Government Is Helping Promote Youth Development In Engineering & Manufacturing Industries

When it comes to the Government’s role in promoting manufacturing to young employees, never has the challenge been higher on its agenda. From the development of manufacturing as a hi-tech industry to the national focus on British firms such as Bombardier ( and Rolls Royce ( winning multi-million pound manufacturing deals, the country’s leaders are working hard to encourage school and university leavers into entering industrial careers.

The development of the Manufacturing University Technical Colleges, like the one in Derby, means that students can now specialise in the engineering sector from 14 and provide the much needed skilled young resource that will, eventually, drive our manufacturing firms forward.

The good news is, some of that message is really starting to filter through. There does seem to be a growing interest in today’s youth moving away from more obviously “fashionable” careers such as web design and into industrial jobs. Certainly, today’s rapid technological advancements offer very exciting opportunities to whet the appetites of young people and graduates keen to explore their creativity by coming up with genuinely innovative engineering solutions. A good example of this is in the fast growing arena of 3D printing, which is now used to produce anything from a new trainer design to “printing” turbine blades in the aerospace industry.

Young recruits who, unlike generation X-ers, have grown up in today’s communication-driven world, are well placed to keep pace with the rate of change in today’s technology market. Want a new take on how to come up with an inventory management, small business software or production planning system that is cost-effective and tailored to fit a client’s exact requirements? Try giving a recent graduate engineer carte blanche to come up with some out-of-the-box solutions – you may be surprised at the great results you get!

But the fact remains that there is still a big challenge ahead to encourage greater collaboration between industry and academia. So where to start?

Our Own Youth Development Drive Has Had Surprising Results

Here in the Derbyshire town of Chesterfield where Statii is based, a recent “Made in Chesterfield” campaign ( has already scored some great results when it comes to opening young minds to the enormous possibilities a career in engineering has to offer.

Not only has it been a key aim of the campaign to introduce older school pupils to the array of manufacturing firms on their doorstep, of equal importance has been the emphasis on making businesses aware of the funding and training opportunities in getting young employees on their books. Recruitment is, or should be, a two-way street: potential employees need the right encouragement and tools to land those good jobs in engineering, but employers also require the key information on what funding is available to make opening up those opportunities worth their while.

As part of the campaign, students are given the chance to experience hands-on what a career in engineering may look like. With at least twenty local businesses regularly engaging with the local forum designed to encourage communication between academic institutions and manufacturers, and five schools working with local manufacturers by the end of 2015, work to encourage 21st century engineers, in this part of the country at least, is certainly heading in the right direction.

But the campaign, and others like it, will get nowhere without the participation of businesses. Individual companies and, in a wider context, British manufacturing, will quickly stagnate without business leaders having the foresight to know that they must open up their doors and make themselves available if they are to continue the push to get the best young minds inside the door. It is their responsibility to sell the industry not only by taking part in business forums and recruitment drives in local schools and universities, but also on a deeply practical level by actually giving up some of their valuable production time to help educate the potential 21st century engineers of the future.

And here we come to a notorious sticking point: how to spare the time and energy in training young employees who have everything to offer in terms of enthusiasm, energy and talent, but nothing in terms of skills and experience? That’s where it pays business leaders to think laterally: freeing up time and space on their production line may look like financial suicide – how can it possibly make business sense not to be fulfilling their order book and making use of production lines at all times possible?

But the truth is it can be done by creating efficiencies elsewhere. It may not seem obvious that having the most efficient MRP software or ERP system will help with recruitment, but businesses which have invested the proper time and energy into these systems will find it much more possible to devote valuable windows in their production line to train their most valuable asset: bright young recruits.

And let’s not forget the financial benefits too. The latest cloud-based technologies mean that proper ERP solutions are now available to SMEs and not just large multi-national firms, so by broadening horizons and switching to cloud ERP systems, small firms are now able to reap financial savings which should enable them to cast out their recruitment net and give their time to training new staff.

Because let’s not forget the most important lesson that business teaches us: a great product may be key to financial success, along with the best frameworks to back it up, from production planning software to MRP systems, but nothing ever matters more to any company than its people. So that’s why recruitment should always be the name of the game when it comes to continuing to prosper and thrive in the years to come.

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