• The event designed to support everything that is great about the engineering and manufacturing sector provided an environment where industry professionals could assess and compare products and services, an opportunity to see and talk to over 80 exhibitors and listen to keynote speakers from leading industry sectors.

    The day started with the Expo breakfast which included a number of guest speakers, one of which was by designer Wayne Hemingway MBE. The talk was passionate and perhaps brave (considering the audience and some of the comments) but the clear message was that when it comes to design and innovation our country is some way behind its European counterparts. Further, there is a need for more risk takers out there that are willing to take a gamble and try something new and different.

    The example was given of the regeneration of Boscombe seafront in Bournemouth and the creation of Europe’s first artificial surf reef, a vision from a local councillor and supported by Hemingway designs. The reef was eventually given the go ahead but was criticised after suffering damage following a storm only a couple of weeks after opening. However, following insurance pay outs and other significant regeneration in the area, the reef re-published. Boscombe is now enjoying the benefits this development has brought, which has included increased jobs and tourism to the area as well as developers and other businesses moving in.

    The Kent Manufacturing Focus Group (KMFG) was also officially launched at the Expo by Lord Digby Jones. The aim of the group is to support the manufacturing sector in Kent by providing a platform to share best practice, learn from industry experts and to create a community amongst Kent manufacturers.

    The launch took place against the backdrop of a spectacular Rolls-Royce motor car, hand built locally at the home of Rolls-Royce at Goodwood, West Sussex and driven down to the event by Anthony Eastwood, HR Director, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. Mr Eastwood gave an interesting keynote speech around the skills challenge in UK manufacturing, a subject that we are repeatedly coming across with our manufacturing clients and contacts.

    Mr Eastwood looked at the issues facing manufacturing and its search for increasingly skilled labour, both now and in the future. He also looked at the current education landscape and how partnership between Government and the manufacturing sector needs to develop. With a particular focus on how Rolls-Royce have grown as a manufacturing employer, it was refreshing to hear how a South East business is addressing the skills challenges it has faced.

    What are some of the key skills challenges for UK Manufacturing?

    • Britain’s economic growth is threatened because one in three mid-sized manufacturing companies is being forced to recruit abroad, according to research.
    • The skills shortage means almost eight out of 10 businesses with turnovers of £5m to £300m say they are suffering, or will in the future suffer, because they are unable to source British workers with the skills they need.
    • Insurer Zurich’s study found the problem was being felt more acutely in family-owned companies, but these are much more likely to look further afield for the talent they need, with 46% ready to go abroad for staff, compared with 29% of non-family-owned companies.
    • Businesses Investment in training among manufacturing employers declined from £3.2bn in 2011 to £2.5bn in 2013 (UKCESS, 2013). This decline is mirrored across the UK economy as a whole, although it is of a slightly higher magnitude in the manufacturing sector.

    What can be done to improve this? The successful development of a sustainable skills base in UK manufacturing requires a strong and stable partnership over the long-term between the Government, individuals, businesses, schools and colleges and skills providers. There is a huge amount of work already in place seeking to secure these relationships which will benefit manufacturing supply chains but this needs to continue and be built upon. The Expo highlighted the challenges faced by manufacturers but also showed what can be done to meet these challenges and ensure a sustainable future for Kent’s manufacturing companies.

    This content is correct at time of publication

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