Over 1,000 Leeds students from 40 schools joined online with an audience of young people at specialist engineering and manufacturing college UTC Leeds last week to receive first-hand advice on working in the city’s diverse manufacturing sector.

Taking place as part of the Leeds Manufacturing Festival, the event saw a nine-strong panel of employers and apprentices from some of the city’s 1,800 manufacturing firms give candid answers to students’ questions on careers in the industry. It was chaired by Craig Burton, managing director of manufacturing recruitment business The Works

Students heard how apprenticeships could be a shrewd route into a sector, enabling many young people progress to management and directorship roles. “The great thing about manufacturing as a career is the huge range of opportunities it opens up once you are in it,” said Graham Hall, executive chairman of Brandon Medical, which manufactures operating theatre lighting and control systems.

“I’ve always worked in manufacturing and have had many different roles during my career, from design, to sales, to travelling the world as part of my job. Its huge scope guarantees that lots of opportunities will come up for you if you work in manufacturing.”

David Noble, production manager at ESG, which manufactures lights and sirens for emergency vehicles, said: “Like most manufacturers we see people as our biggest asset, so when someone joins us, as an apprentice or at any level, they are important to us and are immediately part of the team.

“We want to see young people flourish and develop, and you really can go right to the top. Career progression is rewarding and it’s all down to commitment and hard work.”

Brandon Medical, ESG, jukebox firm Sound Leisure, fibreglass composites manufacturer MPM, and high-tech printing products manufacturer Agfa Graphics were all represented on the panel, answering a range of questions put by the audience at UTC and via Twitter.

Festival organiser, and Agfa Graphics director Graham Cooper said: “The Leeds Manufacturing Festival is all about raising the awareness among young people, and their parents, that there are loads of brilliant opportunities out there in the city’s vibrant manufacturing sector.

“As we’ve heard so convincingly today from the people at the coal face, manufacturing isn’t just about working on the shop floor but involves a really diverse range of different jobs and apprenticeships are a great way to enter the industry. There are 26,000 people working in manufacturing in Leeds alone so that gives you some idea of the scale of the career opportunities on offer.”

Alex Burnham, principal of UTC Leeds, said: “Enabling our students to engage with employers and find out more about industry opportunities is fundamental to our approach. Leeds Manufacturing Festival Live was a great showcase for the diversity of career opportunities available in the city’s manufacturing sector.”

Now in its second year, the Leeds Manufacturing Festival is sponsored by RSM, Womble Bond Dickinson, The Works Recruitment and Leeds City College. It is organised by Leeds Manufacturing Alliance, with the support of Leeds Chamber of Commerce, Leeds City Council and Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP). The initiative is complemented by Bradford Manufacturing Weeks, which take place in October.

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