In facts and figures it is an incredible achievement. With well over 5,000 student interactions, including 142 students taking part in work experience days, 936 experiencing factory tours or site visits, and 2,685 attending talks by employers, the 2019 Bradford Manufacturing Weeks event was a huge success by any standards.
But ultimately, it will be the legacy it creates which it will be judged upon, both in terms of the workforce it creates and the impact it has on young people’s lives.
And after just two years, it is clear that it is a legacy which is going to be a very important one for manufacturing in the Bradford district.
The brainchild of then Bradford Chamber president Nick Garthwaite, Bradford Manufacturing Weeks (a second week was added on last year) has been hugely successful.
Employers, training providers, and the students themselves have all been bowled over by the experiences they have had.
The event also caught the eye of the Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson, who praised it is an ‘excellent’ initiative.
“Following on from last year’s success, I know Bradford Manufacturing Weeks can go from strength to strength, with more businesses and young people involved,” he said.
“It is excellent projects like this that can show young people some of the exciting and valuable opportunities there and give them the belief that with the right help and support they can achieve anything they want.”
For Nick, it has been a hugely satisfactory experience. He came up with the idea because of a sense of frustration among companies about the difficulty of bringing young people into manufacturing, despite Bradford’s position as a leading centre for the sector.
Bradford is an economy built on manufacturing with 1,200 businesses employing 23,000 people – the fourth highest of any city district in the UK – and he felt the time was right to organise something to help raise awareness and create more opportunities for young people, and set about arranging the event through the Bradford Chamber.
“Of course, being the first time, I wasn’t certain of anything,” he said, but he believed that sense of firms wanting to get something done meant he would be “pushing against an open door”.
“All the companies that were involved put a lot of effort into making it a success”.Nick Garthwaite
“For the schools, I again had no real idea of how successful it would be but on talking to some of them again I realised that there was a need. Finding a great delivery partner in Aspire-IGen made such a difference, and working with them, I knew we were onto a winner.
“It ultimately worked so well because of the real commitment, enthusiasm, passion and real engagement from every quarter – sponsors, schools, council, colleges, manufacturers, delivery partners, students themselves who really made it worthwhile and seeing their positive engagement enthused us even more.”
He said the legacy of Manufacturing Weeks was already being felt and it was a very positive one.
“For some manufacturers it has changed how they look after their staff – businesses do need to prepare for the needs of the millennial workforce, there have been a number of young people who as a direct consequence of the weeks have become apprentices and again some manufacturers have modified their whole recruitment process,” said Nick.
“We also know that it changes young people’s perceptions about manufacturing. It is, more often than not, in a very clean and comfortable environment, it’s fascinating and highly stimulating and there are a multitude of different job opportunities in the sector, a job type to suit everyone almost everyone.”
He stressed the importance of focussing on teachers as well as students in future years, and getting them engaged as well.
“We need to ensure that they too get a real taste of the great career opportunities within the manufacturing sector – who knows, we might even get some of them wishing to make the change!”
Samantha Taylor, careers leader at Bradford Academy whose students visited Wibsey-based Melrose Interiors, the largest independent supplier of rugs to the UK online retail market, said all their students involved felt their visit and the initiative itself was excellent.
She added: “The students really valued the visit and seeing for themselves the variety of opportunities and within the business which is not only focussing on manufacturing but which has a real focus on the environment and is leading its industry in IT and logistics.
“Our group of 14-year olds had the opportunity to meet staff, including their current apprentices and all said they took the message that attitude is just as important as grades when looking to impress a future employer. It was incredibly insightful, inspirational and informative.”
The students involved last year not only learned about the manufacturing processes and the workplace environment, they also had the opportunity to learn about life and the big step into the real world – and the many challenges it can bring.
One particularly sobering aspect of that came during the event’s first Drive Awareness Day, which was attended by almost 70 17 to 24-year-old Bradford apprentices.
Among those speaking was Otley-based Tony Davison, who spoke of the day his and his family’s life changed for ever when his son Adrian died in a horrific road crash in Bramhope.
The driver, Adrian’s friend Nigel, also died at the scene and was later found to have been driving while over the prescribed limit of alcohol and it was believed that neither were wearing seatbelts.
Tony, who now works alongside the road safety awareness charity Brake, recounted his experience to raise awareness among the young people present of the very real dangers facing them when they get behind the wheel.
He said: “I have first-hand experience of the devastation that road crashes cause. The horror of a police officer knocking on my door to deliver the news that my son was never coming home was a life shattering experience. I want young people to learn from the tragedy of both deaths, and pledge to put safety first when they get behind the wheel.”
Regan Stevenson Midgley from Powell Industries based on Ripley Road in Bradford, said the day was transformational for her and her five apprentice colleagues, who all drive their own cars.
“It’s easy to forget how dangerous driving can be when you just get in your car and go about your day, you’re so focused on getting to work and to the gym that you forget how easy it is to have an accident,” she said.
“More people should hear Tony’s story and understand how devastating and life changing losing his son has been, because of a car crash. It’s so different seeing a situation through the eyes of those who have been affected by it. When it’s people and actual families that have been destroyed by dangerous driving, it really does make you think twice about the next time you get into your own car.”
For Nick Garthwaite, it was important that Bradford Manufacturing Weeks didn’t just focus on the workplace for young people.
He said: “Bradford Manufacturing Weeks has been very much about the manufacturers opening their doors to encourage students and pupils to find out more about a career in manufacturing, but we also wanted an event that supports today’s apprentices and adds value to their own experience of employment.
“We want young apprentices to be more aware when driving on the roads. We pay them a lot, we look after them, we see them through their qualifications, but we also need to make sure we look after them outside of work. Driver awareness training is a critical part in their professional and personal development and their wellbeing.”
Bradford Manufacturing Weeks 2019 was a West and North Yorkshire Chamber initiative, delivered by Bradford Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by Barclays, Naylor Wintersgill, Gordons LLP, Mitton Group, Dale Carnegie UK, E3 Recruitment, the University of Bradford and Leeds Bradford Airport.
Bradford Manufacturing Week 2019 in numbers
- 45 local secondary schools and 65 local manufacturers involved
- 5,203 student interactions in total.
- 142 students on work experience days
- 936 students undertaking factory tours / site visits
- 2685 students attending employer talks
- 47 attending Apprentices Live
- 54 attending Manufacturers Live
- 400 attending Barclays Life Skills workshops
- 200 students visiting the Bradford Manufacturing Weeks Skills Yorkshire stand
- 68 attending the Driver Awareness event
- 40 students attending University of Bradford workshops
- 11 students attending the launch event at Solenis, including a factory tour and product demonstration
- 620 students attended BMW19 activities after the two-week period
- Manufacturing accounts for 12% of all jobs in Bradford district compared to 8% nationally (Bradford Economic Strategy 2018)
- The strength of Bradford’s business base means its GVA per worker is higher than any other city in the Northern Powerhouse (Bradford Economic Strategy 2018)
- Bradford’s manufacturing GVA output was worth £1.5billion in 2016 accounting for 15% of the district’s total output (ONS 2016)
- Leeds City Region (comprising Craven, Harrogate, York, Selby, Wakefield, Barnsley, Kirklees, Calderdale, Bradford and Leeds) has 127,000 manufacturing jobs, the highest of any Local Enterprise area in the UK