The Leeds Manufacturing Alliance is encouraging businesses of all sizes to get involved in the first ever edition of the Leeds Manufacturing Festival.
Graham Cooper, site manager at Agfa Graphics in Leeds, is helping drive the initiative. He believes that young people are being deterred from entering manufacturing because of the way the industry is perceived.
He told The Yorkshire Post: “I think it’s because of an outmoded view of what manufacturing is.
“If you talk to people about what manufacturing is, and they’re not in it, the vision is of dark satanic Victorian mills or that manufacturing has closed down.
“Whereas in fact it’s a vibrant modern sector but because people don’t go inside the factories they never see that. That’s why we’re wanting to open the doors.”
The region is made up of a large volume of SME manufacturers and organisers of the festival acknowledge that not every business will be able to cater for school visits.
Instead, smaller firms unable to host factory visits are being encouraged to volunteer some of their time to go into schools and speak to students.
The festival organisers are even encouraging businesses to open their doors to neighbours and family members of staff.
Leeds Manufacturing Festival will also be helping small firms with risk assessments to facilitate visits. Mr Cooper hopes the festival, which takes place in October, will become an annual event.
He said: “We’re not going to change attitudes and perceptions of everybody this year. There’s always a stream of young people coming through the school systems.
“We want to run this every year so that it becomes a part of the fixture with schools and young people and everybody gets to know the truth about the manufacturing sector and are attracted to it.”
One of the reasons that manufacturing is struggling to get young people into the industry is because many people believe that Britain no longer makes anything.
Mr Cooper said: “It’s just not true that there is no manufacturing, that it’s dying. It has changed. The mass manufacturing, when you had 30,000 people working in a huge factory somewhere, they’ve largely gone. But it’s been replaced by a vibrant sector, largely led by SMEs.”
West & North Yorkshire Chamber will also be organising the Bradford Manufacturing Week in October with similar aims.
Mr Cooper says that it is important that younger people are brought into the industry as many currently working in manufacturing are nearing retirement age.
“There is an urgent need to fill the pipeline with more raw young talent,” he said.
To find out more about Leeds Manufacturing Festival visit leedsmanufacturingfestival.co.uk
Inspired by the states
The idea for the manufacturing festival is inspired by National Manufacturing Day in the USA.
Organisers thought that just a day was too restrictive so Leeds City Council suggested calling it a festival.
Graham Cooper says the aim of the festival is to “change perception amongst young people towards manufacturing”.
There’s a “real variety” of manufacturers already involved in the festival.
Leeds is the third biggest manufacturing area in the country by local authority area.