The Manufacturer Podcast: Skills & People Series, Episode 3

Posted on 18 Mar 2022 by Tom St John

The editorial team are back with another episode of The Manufacturer Podcast. This marks the third instalment of the current series on Skills & People.

Hey there listener! Today on The Manufacturer Podcast we start with a word from Jack Thomas, technical specialist on PrintCity Network project on the practice of reverse mentoring. This method partners senior executives with junior staff or new graduates in a mentoring relationship which encourages the introduction of fresh perspectives, new skills and innovation into the engineering and manufacturing sectors.

Three-time TTMX award winner Lander Group share the approach that they’ve taken to attracting talent. Managing Director Len Palmer explains that in the business, they have around 65 apprentices, which is around 15% of their workforce – a big proportion in comparison to what a lot of other employers do. They started their apprenticeship programme back in 2016, not just with the intention of growing talent, but a diversity of young people from different backgrounds and skill levels.

And the discussion goes on about reducing the current skills gap, as CEO and Founder of Line View Solution’s Ian Rowledge discusses what more the sector could be doing when it comes to attracting and retaining young talent in the industry.

Listen here to this week’s episode


Jack Thomas - technical specialist on PrintCity Network project

Jack Thomas – “Reverse mentoring is simply about using the skills and the knowledge of a person new to a field who is usually younger in age. It’s about incorporating that knowledge that these new and younger minds have. They think differently to their older, more experienced peers. Normally you can apply the skills set that they have to develop, and sometimes completely overhaul current methodologies that their peers can’t or don’t see. It’s effective because new talent wants to see things differently. They’re usually dissatisfied with the status quo, not in a malicious way at all, but because they see inconsistency, or they see a lack of spark and suggest some more imaginative and streamlined ways of working. 

“I have quite a unique specialism – a Bachelor of Arts and a Masters in Science degree. From a practical point of view, I have brought my digital, fashion and textiles expertise to PrintCity and am often able to support my senior-level colleagues with my wide range of knowledge. They definitely listen to me and respect that I do bring in a different set of skills.

 “It’s the same in the commercial world, companies know they need something, but they don’t always know what. These digital skills are vital to the workplace today. Employers need to realise there is a resource in these youngsters. They have energy, passion and knowledge to offer.”

Len Palmer, MD of Lander Automotive

Len Palmer – We run an innovative, large scale apprenticeship programme. Currently, in the business, we have around 65 apprentices, which is around 15% of our workforce and this is a very big proportion in comparison to what a lot of other employers do.

“We started our apprenticeship programme back in 2016 with the intention of never having to recruit out of the business because the aim was to grow our own talents. The energy and the drive that the younger employees have brought into the business has really changed the whole demographic of Lander Group. We now have around 17 apprentices that have come through the programme, from the original cohorts, who are now in professional functions within the business. We’re always keen to promote manufacturing as a career path, we have partnered with local colleges in terms of recruitment for our programme. We are also constantly reaching out to schools to try get involved from a young age because it’s a great way for us to grow our own talents.

“On a more personal level, it’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done because I feel a sense of duty to help the next generations through and an interesting fact is that most of the director’s in this business are products of apprenticeship programmes at some point in the past”

Ian Rowledge, CEO and Founder of Line View Solutions

Ian Rowledge – When you think of manufacturing as a whole, there’s been a lot of evolution over the last 20-30 years, particularly around automation. This has happened at quite a high rate – the jobs that existed 30 years ago don’t exist anymore. Manual labour jobs have changed and been replaced by technical operating jobs and roles are now being combined where individuals are expected to do quality checks and clean lubricating spec maintenance, for example. If you look at where we’re moving, there’s going to be even more automation and those skills will change again. I don’t think the industry has done a very good job in letting people know this is happening.

“I think there is also a false perception for young people of what the job (manufacturing) entails. There’s a perception that factory work doesn’t pay well, it’s not well understood what you actually do when working in a factory. There are still these historic videos of the Model T rolling of the assembly line. That’s just not the case anymore. Individuals with science, technology, engineering or maths degrees are being attracted to other industries and I don’t think we’re doing a very good job of informing people.

Listen back to last week’s episode – an International Women’s Day Special