Leeds manufacturing firms Sulzer Pumps, AW Hainsworth and MPM Ltd have opened their doors to students from the school of engineering at Leeds City College to give them first-hand workplace experience and introduce them to the opportunities that careers in manufacturing present.
The series of ‘manufacturing treks', organised by the Ahead Partnership on behalf of Leeds Manufacturing Festival, were the culmination of the festival, launched in February, when employers joined forces with the college, schools and training providers in the city to tackle the skills shortages facing the sector.
Tracey Dawson, managing director of Daletech Electronics and chair of Leeds Manufacturing Alliance which organises the Leeds Manufacturing Festival, said: “The festival has been hugely successful and a
standout feature has been the way younger employees have taken centre stage in this year’s festival, acting as role models and ambassadors for the sector.”
The festival has seen apprentices and younger employees take part in online careers panels – talking to school students about their jobs and the companies they work for – as well as live events such as Leeds apprenticeship Recruitment Fair and a manufacturing careers showcase attended by students form Leeds City College, UTC Leeds and the Gorse Academy Trust.
The festival also saw the launch of the inaugural ’Next Gen’ awards designed to recognise the sector's next generation of rising stars and future manufacturing leaders.
“It’s great to bring that full circle with the manufacturing treks introducing students from the college to modern manufacturing firms and prospective employers in the city,” Tracey added.
Wayne Lucas, deputy head of engineering at Leeds City College’s Printworks campus, who joined the manufacturing treks, said they had made a huge impression on students.
“The companies went to great lengths to ensure students had an interesting and insightful visit. The tasks and activities at each location were engaging and well organised, involving staff at all levels of the company, who took time out of their busy days to share their knowledge and experience.”
“All the students left speaking excitedly about the new career opportunities they could take in engineering, having seen the wide range of vocations that the qualifications they are working on could lead to.”
Amanda McLaren, managing director of AW Hainsworth, said the visits had opened the eyes of students to the possibilities that careers in engineering could offer, with many unaware of the apprenticeship routes and opportunities available to them in the textiles sector.
“It was fantastic to receive students from the college into our mill. They were extremely engaged throughout the day and asked some great questions! They were blown away by the range of our machinery and processes, our brand-new testing laboratory and the depth of learning that can be offered from our vertically integrated environment and expertise on site,” she said.
“We are fully committed to investing and developing opportunities for young people. We’re developing traineeships, traditional in-house apprenticeships and collaborating with local educational and industry providers to shape up specialist engineering apprenticeships.”
“Recent investments we’ve made in a new laboratory and new textile machinery, along with planned investments in our employees, our site facilities and engineering division, demonstrates our commitment to the next generation and our determination to be an ‘employer of choice’ in the Leeds City Region for many years to come.”
Faron Convey, project manager from Ahead Partnership, said it’s vital young people are able see for themselves the breadth of opportunities available in manufacturing, one of the region’s key sectors. “This is especially important as we emerge from the pandemic, where successive lockdowns have meant young people have not been able to take part in work experience or visits to workplaces to inform and shape their own ideas about their futures.
“We’re so grateful to all the employers that took part in the treks for helping these young people get first-hand experience of what working in manufacturing is like and have their questions answered by the experts. The activity has helped them to face the future with more confidence and start to forge their own pathways in this exciting and innovative sector.”