More women into manufacturing to solve skills shortage

Posted on 26 Nov 2013

Manufacturing SMEs in England are being urged to do more to change perceptions of the sector and get more females interested in a possible career in industry.

Lorraine Holmes, one of the Area Directors behind the Manufacturing Advisory Service, with 18 years of experience at Henkel Chemical and Ameron Inc., stood up as part of the organisation’s ‘Manufacturing Matters’ week and in response to the Girls’ Attitude Survey from Girlguiding that suggests 62% of their members think engineering is ‘more for men’.

Ms. Holmes believes UK is missing out on a vital resource that could secure future skills shortages and help solve the issue of ageing workforces.

“Engineering is not just about the Jaguar Land Rover, Airbus and JCBs of this world, there’s a whole host of innovative, world class companies that make up the supply chain, yet very few young girls actually know about them,” explains Lorraine.

“The Girlguiding survey provides a snapshot of what members think about industry and it doesn’t make great reading.  Nearly half feel they don’t have enough knowledge of what jobs are available and 30% still feel sexism is a barrier to choosing a career in this sector,” she adds.

Anna Stevenson from Millennium Pressed Metal’s rows against the flow. She used an A-Level feasibility study to start a small ‘rapid turnaround’ business more than ten years ago and is projecting considerable growth.

From a small start-up in a 4,000 sq ft rented unit, she has taken the business to nearly £3m annual turnover, supplying presswork, turned parts and mechanical assemblies for end use by some of the world’s biggest global brands in automotive, construction and off highway.

“I still pinch myself how far we’ve come and what we are achieving on a day-to-day basis…nearly 6 millions parts are made by us every year,” explained Anna, who masterminded the recent move into a new 35,000 sq ft facility in Sandwell in the Black Country,” she says.

She went on to add: “We’re now in a position where we have doubled the business since 2009 and employ 31 people, 50% of whom are women. I can honestly say the times I’ve experienced discrimination have been very rare; as long as you do the job, at the price they want and on time it doesn’t matter what sex you are.”

Lorraine Holmes further urged: “We need to change perceptions and inspire more women to actively look at STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects with view to their future. We can’t do it on our own, manufacturers need to play their part too.”