Manufacturing Weeks ‘transformative’ for schools in Bradford

Bradford manufacturing weeks
Ben Bott. Picture: Lorne Campbell / Guzelian

The Bradford Manufacturing Weeks initiative is ‘transformative’ for schools, according to Robert Fairbairn, business and careers lead at the city’s Oastler School.

He says the 2018 event introduced him to six local employers and ensured the school met five and six of the Government’s eight Gatsby benchmarks in just three months.

“Achieving the Gatsby benchmarks is important for us but what really matters is engaging with young people in a way which makes them see the opportunities and potential – not only in business, but in themselves,” said Robert.

Building on the legacy of last year’s inaugural event, Bradford Manufacturing Weeks 2019 – running from  7th – 18th October – will give young people the opportunity to go behind the scenes of some of the district’s manufacturers and see the possibilities of professions they may not have considered, or even realised were available.

Launched by Bradford Chamber of Commerce and co-ordinated by career specialists Aspire-igen, the event is delivering more than 4,000 manufacturing experiences over two weeks and is endorsed by Bradford Council, Bradford Economic Partnership and Bradford University and made possible by key sponsors and supporters including Barclays, Bradford accountants Naylor Wintersgill; Bradford law firm Gordons; building services specialists Mitton; professional training and development company Dale Carnegie; E3 Recruitment, Bradford University and Leeds Bradford Airport.

Now organisers want to involve more businesses in this not-for-profit event which unites manufacturers, schools, young people and parents through tours, work experiences, seminars and learning events at companies and key locations across the district.

Mark Viner, MD of Skipton-based Guyson International Ltd, who hosted South Craven School, Keighley College and Skipton Girls High, said previously they were so impressed by the students they met during the event they offered two apprenticeships.

Ben Bott, from Bradford, visited aerospace component manufacturer Produmax, where he secured a three-year mechanical engineering apprenticeship last month.

The 16-year-old former Hanson Academy student spent two weeks at the Shipley-based company before embarking on an 18-week course at Keighley College which will allow him to put his knowledge into practice within the workforce.

Ben said previously of his experience, that working alongside staff on the shop floor during his placement ‘was a real honour.’ Now he is working alongside them – and loving every minute of it.

“On the first day it was surreal – I looked at my lanyard and it said employee – before I was on a work placement here – it was a brilliant feeling,” he said.

Ben particularly loves being ‘hands-on.’ “That is one of the reasons I aspired to go for an apprenticeship. It allows me to be flexible – I like to be hands-on,” he said.

He said he cannot thank Bradford Chamber and its Bradford Manufacturing Week enough for the opportunity it has brought him.

“It’s the best thing that has ever happened to me. This apprenticeship is going to be my future – it’s the best thing I could ever have done and it’s all thanks to Bradford Manufacturing Week,” said Ben.

And he already has his sights set on the future… “I aspire to finish my college course and progress further in the company. They are a brilliant company and I would like to stay with them long term,” he added.

Mandy Ridyard, financial director at Produmax, said: “For me it’s about being able to show people that are in school that there are other options, apart from the ones that tend to jump to the top of their parents or their school teachers lists. I want them to see manufacturing and engineering for themselves so that is why we have supported Bradford Manufacturing Week last year and this year.

“It’s about re-setting the profile of manufacturing, so people realise what modern manufacturing is all about, and what a rewarding career it is.”

Event founder Nick Garthwaite, former Bradford Chamber of Commerce president and MD of Bradford-based international chemicals and detergents manufacturer, Christeyns, said businesses are putting their ‘heart and soul’ into the event and enjoying the experience along with older workers who are keen to share their skills and expertise with young visitors.

Nick said the event was also providing teachers with ‘an alternative view of how to access the world of work by showing businesses in action.’

“The other legacy is the relationship is being maintained between the schools and businesses – that has kept on throughout 2019 and I feel confident that will continue for 2020 and beyond,” he added.