Inspiring children at an early age to go into engineering and manufacturing careers and changing the perception of manufacturing, were some of the things discussed at a summit on rebuilding the UK manufacturing sector.
Speaking at the 2011 Manufacturing Summit, Mark Prisk MP, Minister of State for Business and Enterprise, said that work needed to be done to tackle “the outdated and often very negative perceptions” of what modern manufacturing was all about. It was also important to equip people with the skills the industry needed.
In 2009, 43 per cent of those who graduated did so with a first degree in a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subject. However, only five per cent went on to work in engineering or manufacturing, Prisk said.
“There is a fair proportion of young people who have the potential skills the industry needs, but who are going elsewhere – they don’t see their careers in engineering and in manufacturing.”
The myth of low salaries and that “making things no longer matters”, also needs to be tackled and challenged, Prisk said.
Open days at factories, increasing funding for adult apprenticeships and letting students with a “technical aptitude” be able to have the option to do vocational training from 14, alongside their academic work, were some ways to inspire and get young people into the industry, he said.
Renishaw assistant chief executive Ben Taylor told the summit he believed the industry, government and education institutions needed to inspire students to get excited about manufacturing at an earlier age.
“If we wait until people are ready to go to university they don’t either have the correct 6th form or the interest to do it, and we need to start incentivising people’s mind to wish to do it.”
Hone-All director Andrea Rodney said it was also important that when students did go to college to study manufacturing, they were working with machines they would work with in the industry not machines used 30 years ago, or being taught by teachers that should have retired 30 years ago.
She also said that manufacturing institutions, associations and bodies needed to unite in “one strong voice” as they would have a much bigger impact.
Financing for small to medium enterprises (SMEs), and the fairness around banks lending to SME’s were also discussed.
Taylor said there was a fairness that was not being handled correctly - that the bankers who had got help from “all of us, are not, I think, willing… right now to provide the help that we need”.
Discussions from the summit will form part of the Government’s Growth Review Framework for Advanced Manufacturing, which will feed into measures in the 2011 Treasury Budget to help sustain manufacturing growth.