The boardroom at Leeds City College Printworks Campus was packed for the launch last week of the 2023 Leeds Manufacturing Festival.
Manufacturing employers, college and school careers advisers and representatives from training and skills providers gathered for the launch, where they heard Mayor of West Yorkshire, Tracy Brabin emphasise the key role of manufacturing in the regional economy.
“We cannot grow as a region without manufacturing at the top of its game,” she said, adding that the sector has a vital part to play in the transition to a green and resilient economy.
Stephen Phipson, chief executive of manufacturing employers’ organisation Make UK, set out the continuing importance of manufacturing to the UK economy but drew attention to the skills shortages holding the sector back.
He also highlighted the opportunities for the sector in developing environmental technologies which are vital in helping the UK reduce carbon emissions and meet its net zero targets.
Speaking at the launch event, chair of Leeds Manufacturing Alliance and managing director of MPM Ltd Ben Wilson, outlined the programme for the festival, highlighting the opportunities the festival presents for employers and the benefits of getting involved.
He also thanked festival sponsors and, together with Stephen Phipson, joined an industry-led expert panel that included Matt Booth, associate director at E3 Recruitment, Mitch Scott, head of engineering at Leeds City College and Amanda McLaren, managing director of textile firm AW Hainsworth.
Gavin Howarth also spoke on behalf of the Howarth Foundation, which has been chosen as charity partner for the 2023 Leeds Manufacturing Festival.
He described the difference that the foundation makes, with support from the business community, in helping people who are homeless to find work and turn their lives around.
“The festival gives us the chance to fly the flag for manufacturing in Leeds, promote careers in the sector and build links with schools and colleges to bring the next generation into our industry,” said alliance chair Ben. “There was a really positive energy and enthusiasm in the room today and it’s important to carry that momentum forward.”
Apprenticeships offer different approach to learning and new opportunities
Overcoming preconceptions about what it’s like to work in modern manufacturing and the kinds of roles on offer is a key aim of the festival.
Speaking to BBC Radio Leeds, which broadcast interviews from the event throughout the day, apprentices Richard Lomas and Clayton Flether from jukebox manufacturer Sound Leisure said working in manufacturing had opened their eyes to new ways of learning and new opportunities.
“When I first heard about the apprenticeship that was available at Sound Leisure I didn’t really understand what it was,” said Richard. “But my mum and dad sat me down and explained the benefits. It gives you the skills you need to take you to the next stage in your career.”
Clayton added: “People think about apprentices as electricians and joiners but there’s loads of other opportunities in things like coding and software technologies or accounts and marketing. It’s good to be able to learn hands on, get the experience you need and be paid to do it.”
Chris Black, managing director of the family-owned business said: “We’re extremely proud to be involved in the festival and of our two apprentices Richard and Clayton who spoke to Radio Leeds about their journey within our business. When they returned to the factory, they were given a standing ovation.”