How do we encourage young people into manufacturing?
By Hamish Champ
Posted 15 June 2012
There's much talk about how to entice young people into manufacturing.
Let's face it, the rate we're going come 2050 there'll hardly be anybody making things in this country.
Instead the next couple of generations will be developing software for computer games or working in the financial services sector (despite the travails of that particular industry).
I'll admit that factory floors aren't the most immediately-appealing places to work, but we need a sense of perspective here.
Firstly, they are a far cry from the Satanic mills-esque places of a bygone age. I watched TV footage of a UK car plant recently and I can tell you it was a darn sight cleaner than my son's bedroom.
It was certainly miles away from the scene that greeted me when I visited Ford's factory in Dagenham on a school trip.
And secondly, we should be engendering in young people that manufacturing can be a career, given the right set of circumstances.
One of the challenges manufacturers face is to de-bunk the age-old myths that surround factories and the like.
So why not hold 'open days' to show what manufacturers do? Do schools run trips to factories, like the one I did to Ford all those years ago? I doubt it – though sadly probably because these days there are far fewer factories to visit.
OK, there are health and safety issues to consider. Plus walking around a factory might not be every child or young person's idea of a great time. But for some it could prove inspirational.
I mention this because I attended Engel's triennial symposium in Austria this week as a member of the Engel Moulder's Group's (EMG) delegation and a key part of the visit was a tour round Engel's plant in St Valentin. This is where it puts together the machines that go on to mould many of the plastic bits and bobs you and I take for granted.
Now I'm fascinated at seeing injection moulding machines making intricate plastic things; it's also kind of mesmeric.
But it was even better to see the kit that does the injecting and moulding being created before one's very eyes.
Looking at large pieces of precision-milled steel being manoeuvred into position and the end result being a 500-tonne injection moulding machine was quite something. And as more than one member of the EMG party said to me, rather wistfully it must be said: “Now that's real engineering”.
And it was. Now I've no doubt such levels of skill are achieved over here.
But think about it: if seeing such activity can 'wow' a bunch of middle-aged blokes who've been in this game for years, imagine what it might do for the next (potential) generation of manufacturers...
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