Image makeover plan for industry spelled out

Posted on 30 Oct 2009 by The Manufacturer

The director of Manufacturing Insight, the new organisation set up to improve the perception of manufacturing, has set out its strategy for providing young people with a better understanding of the sector.

Nick Hussey spelled out the new industry-led, government-backed programme’s strategy at an event marking the one year anniversary of government’s Manufacturing Strategy: New Challenges, New Opportunities in London yesterday.

Manufacturing Insight, launched yesterday, is an initiative that is part-funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and EEF, the manufactures’ organisation.

The strategy covers four target areas: to increase positive press coverage of manufacturing; to help simplify the number of government initiatives for manufacturing; to help communicate the wide range of career paths within the sector, and, perhaps most importantly, to address the problem that young people don’t fully understand what manufacturing is.

There is a strategy for each area. Hussey said Manufacturing Insight (MI) intends to leverage relevant existing activities in other parts of the Manufacturing Strategy. Specifically, Insight will deliver three main activities with its partners in industry:

1) MI will be a media hub at local and national level, aimed at “getting traction to make the mainstream media get behind manufacturing “ and as a place to consolidate media coverage.
2) The development of a series of regular manufacturing supplements to be distributed in some of the national newspapers, working with the regional redevelopment agencies and manufacturers.
3) MI and its partners to engage with young people at every opportunity. MI will work with the Manufacturing Technologies Association and STEMNET, the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Network. MI will target recruitment fairs, and will host a recruitment event at key manufacturing trade show MACH 2010 in June. The first press conference and supplement will be delivered in January 2010.

The new initiative faces a big task. Hussey quoted several numbers from the Engineering Technology Board’s research, which shows that , in a recent poll, just 12% of 11-16 year olds know what manufacturing is, 38% see engineering as undesirable as a profession and 68% view engineering as boring.
Hussey spoke of the important influence that parents, teachers and peers have on children when considering career choices.

He also quoted findings from consultancies Cap Gemini and Atos Origin which forecast the size of the UK manufacturing sector based on current levels of recruitment as being very discouraging.

But there are also more positive signs. Research published by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council recently show that more students have applied for STEM (science and maths) subjects at university in the last 12 months than in the same period for the previous three years, and that science is now the most popular ‘subject’ for 15-18 years olds.

Anecdotal references that manufacturing is in the public conscience included Richard Hammonds television series ‘Engineering Connections’, in which the Top Gear star encourages kids to blow-up structures having understood how they were built.

Also Pizza Express founder Luke Johnson wrote in the Financial Times this week, remarking on the “genuine nobility of manufacturing,” where he, as a committed service-sector entrepreneur, said: “part of me would have loved to have been a genuine manufacturer. There is something authentic, something noble about making physical objects. It appears to me the essence of capitalism.”

Nick Hussey can be contacted on: [email protected]