Leeds Manufacturing Live was staged to highlight the wide range of careers available in manufacturing firms and to destroy myths about the sector.
The event, which was staged at the head office of jukebox manufacturers Sound Leisure in Leeds, was part of the Leeds Manufacturing Festival, which aims to provide young people, careers advisers, teachers and parents with a better understanding of modern manufacturing.
The debate was hosted by Greg Wright, the deputy business editor of The Yorkshire Post, and the panel included Chris Black, the managing director of Sound Leisure, Tracey Dawson of Daletech Electronics, Graeme Hall, the executive chairman of Brandon Medical, Craig Burton, executive chairman of The Works Recruitment and Ben Wilson the managing director of MPM.
Many manufacturing firms are concerned about the skills deficit and bosses are keen to attract more school leavers into the sector.
Mr Hall told the audience that the sector had undergone vast improvements in recent years.
He added: “Only good manufacturers have survived. We are generally doing things that are world class.
“The companies you see around you are doing fantastic things. They are making a huge range of products that go into everything that we use around us.”
Ms Dawson said: “You end up working in a factory because it’s a great place to work. There are lots of opportunities, not just manufacturing on the workshop floor; you’ve got accounts and sales.
“There are a whole host of opportunities. Come to one of our manufacturing companies and we’ll show you the opportunities...but the schools are not aware of them.”
The panel also included Alice Graham from Agfa who said she wanted to encourage other young people to consider careers in engineering.
She stressed the important role that schools could play in developing ties with manufacturing firms.
Mr Black said after the broadcast “I want people to see that we are approachable. We are all trying to get out there and shout about the sector. We want people to come and see us.
“It’s not just the students. It’s the teachers, careers advisers and even the parents. It’s not like it was 50 years ago.
“For too long we’ve been hiding ourselves under a bushel; we’ve kept quiet while everyone else around us has grown
“People have gone into careers like accountancy, or they have gone to work in call centres. We just need to be proud once again of what we are building in the area.”
Mr Black added: “You can see there is great teamwork, not only between our own team internally but between other manufacturers. We all get on well together and we all try to help each other.”
“We hope the audience understands that we are open for business and they understand that we are shipping products worldwide and they can be part of that.”
Mr Wilson said he wanted to open doors for children who were interested in careers in manufacturing.
He added: “Manufacturers want to see them in the factories, even if it’s just for a look around. Every job has got to be right for the individual.
“We’re a family business and we’ve been in business for 40 years. It’s all about the team and the culture. That’s what being part of something special is all about.
“If you’re part of a really good team, you can be part of a winning team.
“It doesn’t matter whether you are a £500,000 turnover or £50m turnover business, if you’re part of a good team and a solid culture, you’ll have a smile on your face. It will open up opportunities as well.”
The event was devised by the festival sponsors, The Works Recruitment.
Businessman Graham Cooper, who helped to organise the event, said: “When we were planning Leeds Manufacturing Festival, we couldn’t have imagined achieving such an event as Leeds Manufacturing Live.”
He said the event had led to the production of a programme that could be used as an educational resource.
With 1,800 manufacturing firms in Leeds, the city is the third largest manufacturing centre in the country by local authority area.
There are 26,000 people directly employed in the sector in Leeds.
The debate also featured a number of manufacturing industry professionals including James Byers of Brandon Medical, Liam McMahon and Jessica Sugden of MPM and Dale Barraclough of Daletech.
To discover more about the Leeds Manufacturing Festival, and to find a link to the video of the Leeds Manufacturing Live broadcast, visit: https://leedsmanufacturingfestival.co.uk/