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Manufacturing skills should form part of the national curriculum

Now that we are out of the EU and on our own again in the world, it is more important than ever that Britain continues to expand and develop its traditional skills in manufacturing. Why is this so important? Because we are currently falling behind in the race to attract the brightest talent into a sector that accounts for £191bn of output per annum, represents 17% of the UK economy and employs 2.7m people. Half of the UK’s total exports come from manufacturing.

Yet despite these impressive statistics, it is estimated that 186,000 skilled individuals will need to be recruited every year until 2024 to fill a widening gap in manpower.

In drawing attention to this issue, Merseyside-valve manufacturer Heap & Partners is hoping to harness the power of education to change the perception of manufacturing so that the brightest young minds will start to recognise the sector as an attractive, long-term career option. The company has successfully enlisted the help of 18 MPs who have put their signatures to an ‘Early Day’ motion calling on Boris Johnson’s government to ‘hardwire’ manufacturing skills into the national curriculum. Their argument is based on the assertion that the current curriculum “does little to equip young people with the skills required to pursue a career in manufacturing.”

The MPs are also highlighting “the growing calls of small and medium-sized manufacturers who want an urgent review of the curriculum in a bid to see the industry receive greater representation.”

The initiative has been given a warm welcome by business leaders, including UnitBirwelco. Education could be the ‘silver bullet’ that helps us to close the skills gap at a time when most businesses are forced to concentrate their efforts on regaining lost ground and financial strength after the Coronavirus pandemic.

As a group, UnitBirwelco is a long-term and active supporter of apprenticeship and graduate trainee programmes which we have been able to maintain throughout the crisis. However, education of our young needs to start earlier if perceptions of sectors like manufacturing are to be brought up to date. Teachers and pupils alike need to know about the transformation that has been brought about by huge investment in advanced technologies and the introduction of modern work practices and conditions. Presented in the right way in classrooms, the future and the potential for bright young people entering manufacturing could be seen as so much brighter than it is currently.