Bradford has a long and proud history as a centre for manufacturing and remains home to over 1,200 firms who collectively employ nearly 27,000 people, or 13% of the entire city’s workforce, second only to health and social care.
The sector makes an enormous contribution, not just to the City’ economy, but to the national purse and if we are to continue to make a contribution then we have to ensure that our firms can access the talent they need to keep producing into the future.
Bradford is well known for being the ‘youngest city’ in the country and I feel strongly that as a sector we can offer future generations excellent employment opportunities across a range of industry sectors. But to do this we need to shout as loudly as possible that we exist and we are hiring. More importantly young people need to know how they can access these opportunities, we need to be far more visible to them.
Manufacturing is moving into the fourth industrial revolution with increasing automation and digitalisation of traditional processes and products leading to new skills requirements which are perfect for a generation brought up using mobile tech. AI, Big Data and the Internet of Things are becoming more common place, we need to share this with young people.
I believe there is much we can do as industry in order to raise the awareness of apprenticeships, especially in the minds of parents, teachers and the young people themselves. Parity of esteem between vocational and academic routes into employment must be a collective goal for Bradford, we need to make apprenticeship vacancies as visible as possible.
Bradford Manufacturing Weeks, an initiative from the Chamber of Commerce, aims to bring young people face to face with the exciting opportunities which exist in the sector right across the district. The initiative is supported by manufacturers from a range of disciplines including chemicals, mechanical engineering and food production, providing young people with the chance to speak with existing apprentices, understand what happens in factories and, critically, help identify the pathways towards these roles.
I believe it is a shared responsibility between business, education and government, both local and national, to address the skills challenges across the country. Here in Bradford we are leading the way and I would encourage all manufacturers to play their part. More information is available at https://bradfordmanufacturingweek.co.uk/