Why is it so difficult to enthuse young people about careers in manufacturing?

Posted on 22 Aug 2017 by Jonny Williamson

Naylor Industries' COO, Bridie Warner-Adsetts, reveals why UK manufacturing is facing difficult times currently, and why it doesn't have to be like that. 

Bridie Warner-Adsetts, chief operating officer, Naylor Industries.
Bridie Warner-Adsetts, chief operating officer, Naylor Industries.

UK manufacturing is facing turbulent times what with the ongoing Brexit negotiations, its long-standing skills shortage, and an educational system that is consistently described as not preparing young people for true needs of industry.

Chief operating officer of Naylor Industries, Bridie Warner-Adsetts, discussed her thoughts with The Manufacturer on the industrial nature of the people in the UK, the biggest challenges UK industry faces, and what could be done to address the skills gap.

What are the biggest challenges for UK manufacturers?

Undoubtedly, it’s skills. And I think it’s a multi-pronged problem. There is low true unemployment in the UK so candidates are hard to find.

The UK has a skills gap and many companies have failed to see that happening and look at succession planning and training, either developing skills from within or bringing in new talent.

We are challenged, especially in these tricky economic and geopolitical times, particularly with the potential impact of Brexit. What will happen to skills that we have previously imported – which was very necessary? Are migrants going to feel that they are not welcome in the UK? Are they going to be restricted from working the UK?

Why is it still so difficult to enthuse young people about careers in manufacturing?   

Our education system is totally out of date with the opportunities in the UK for jobs,  careers and professions. I don’t think we teach young people what careers or even work looks like let alone prepare them for it.

There is a dereliction of duty among those in the education system. I hear horrifying things being said to young people about what their options are and what they aren’t. Stereotyping is rife. “You don’t want to work in manufacturing, it’s dirty, it’s grubby etc.”, but when was the last time these people were in a modern factory?

It should be compulsory training for educators to go and look at what work looks like in this country and to learn what industry demands.

There seems to be an enormous disconnect between education and employment. Education isn’t all about career and employment, but one aspect of it should be your future as a productive contributing member of the society, and therefore there need to be some listening going on in education about what employers actually want.

I think some of that disconnected message also comes from parents who are also out of touch with what modern engineering and manufacturing careers look like in the 21st century. That effects how many young women we have coming into industry, as well as contributes to the skills gap overall.