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Outlook is bright for Lancashire manufacturers

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As part of Lancashire Manufacturing Week, Jonathan Thomas from Lancashire County Developments Ltd considers optimism, the skills gap and the opportunities presented by IFB 2014.

Advanced manufacturing sector prospects

As part of Lancashire Manaufacturing Week (hosted by Moore & Smalley accountants and HSBC Bank) I was priviliged to have a tour of Blackburn-based Precision Polymer Engineering - a great Lancashire manufacturing success story.

As a result of their investment in systems, processes and people the future looks bright for PPE. The outlook for the manufacturing and engineering sectors as a whole looks positive - with MHA's latest manufacturing and engineering survey, with the majority of respondents anticipating growth for their business. In 2013 these positive expectations were almost met with 71% of respondents reporting growth (75% had predicted growth in the year) and only 8% reporting a contraction in their business activities.

Looking at 2014 the respondents continue to report an increasingly positive outlook with 92% of respondents anticipating growth and 51% of respondents expecting more than 10% growth for their business.

It remains to be seen whether this optimistic outlook will match with reality as businesses strive to recover from the ongoing impact of the recession and meet the challenges of a truly global market.

There is a constant need for businesses in the manufacturing and engineering sectors to be innovative with their products and processes and to continuously develop these to remain competitive. As a percentage of turnover over half of those who do invest spend between 1% and 4% of their turnover.

With this in mind it is probably a good time to think about contacting Boost on 0800 488 0057 to see what support can be offered to assist in your growth trajectory and increase profitability.

New response to the skills gap

In terms of recruiting the future workforce, the pressure is beginning to build already. It is my view that as a nation we have yet to sufficiently prioritise the needs of this sector when we educate our young.

Despite some positives including the growth of the University Technical College movement and a greater emphasis on the STEM subjects in our secondary schools our education system remains skewed towards producing candidates who aspire to service industry jobs which in many cases do not exist. The shortage of engineering graduates is a national scandal, but there are also other vacancies at almost every level.

At a time when manufacturing and engineering businesses have great opportunities waiting to be taken we need to come up with a coherent national plan to produce the candidates needed, to meet the demand. The Talent Retention Solution - the UK's first national engineering and advanced manufacturing talent platform - can help advanced manufacturers combat skills shortages. More than 5,000 engineers, students and apprentices have signed up to the industry-led Talent Retention Solution (TRS) scheme, launched in 2011 to match engineering and advanced manufacturing talent with job opportunities nationwide.

TRS is also supported by trade associations, manufacturing & engineering sector professional bodies and educational institutions. TRS is about safeguarding manufacturing and engineering skills across our sector and provides, as part of its wider remit, a recruitment platform for industry which works on a not-for-profit basis. It is free to SMEs with a turnover of less than £50m, while companies of all sizes can advertise early careers vacancies for free.

Larger companies pay a small annual membership, including free advertising, EEF members are eligible for a 10% discount. Business Secretary Vince Cable MP said:

"What I like most about the TRS is how simple it is. It’s like an ‘eBay’ for engineers that matches vacancies with talent. 

With successful manufacturers constantly telling me they struggle to recruit engineers, I hope the popularity of the TRS will encourage even more people to sign up – especially small businesses who can use it for free."

For further information about the scheme, visit: https://talentretention.biz/page/about

IFB 2014 offers opportunity for Lancashire manufacturers

The International Festival for Business (IFB) 2014 is the largest global concentration of business events during 2014. The 50-day festival runs across 7 weeks in June and July and will attract business delegates and trade intermediaries from around the world.

IFB 2014 offers you the choice of more than 150 business-focused events of all shapes and sizes, spanning seven broad IFB 2014 themes:

The IFB 2014 events calendar is programmed around 7 business growth themes aimed at showcasing the "Best of British" and engaging an international audience.

As part of IFB programme, Creative Lancashire and the Design Council are presenting this year's BIG conference at Edge Hill University. With positivity and growth firmly back on the agenda the BIG 2014 Conference www.bigconference.co.uk has a line-up of inspirational speakers to help you re-think re-energise and review what you do. The event is free for Lancashire-based businesses.

BIG 2014 has been designed for business leaders to grasp the opportunity for change, to create new sense of purpose, direction and momentum whilst the business landscape transforms. Keynote Christopher Sanderson is co-founder of The Future Laboratory, where he is responsible for delivering the company’s extensive global roster of conferences.

Chris's inspirational keynotes have been delivered to Gucci Group, the European Travel Commission, Retail Week, Selfridges, M&S, Chanel, Harrods, Aldo, H&M, General Motors, BBDO, Design Hotels, Conde Nast Media and Omnicom. Chris recently presented Channel 4 TV’s five part series, Home of the Future. Chris co-writes a monthly column for Luxury Briefing and is a SuperBoard member of The British Fashion Council’s Fashion Trust.

For Lancashire businesses who have the ambition to grow but feel they have hit a glass ceiling there will be invaluable advice from Phil Jones CEO of Brother. Phil will provide a dose of inspiration to get things moving and fire our imaginations through his practical business tips, thought provoking questions and enthusiasm to think BIG! 

A popular speaker from BIG 2013, Phil will ignite your passion to grow through purpose, people and potential based thinking. The possibilities of international innovation with specific attention to China, will be promoted for those who are considering R&D across continents.

Jennifer Mein, Leader of the county council, who will open the BIG conference, said: "The economy is moving into a period of growth. Business leaders need to respond quickly to take advantage of expanding and emerging markets, as well as increased demand for goods and services." 

Expert advice will be on hand for any business looking to grow through exploiting their intellectual property, Leighton Cassidy from Fieldfisher will demonstrate the potential possibilities of IP as Daniel Charny will promote the benefits of creative commons and open source through his company From Now On.

Delegates will hear from tech experts, Dr Ania Servant as she explains the importance of the substance 'Graphene' as Dr Paul Coulton future scopes the infinite possibilities of the 'Internet of Things'.

The conference will host a number of Boost 'growth converasations' with businesses who, with the help of business support, have applied innovation and creative thinking to their own businesses - ultimately increasing sales, delivering efficiencies and contributing to the bottom line.

The panel, who will be interviewed by experienced business journalist Michael Taylor, are:

  • Dawood Fard - Centurus
  • James Saunders - FDM Digital
  • Ewan Baldry - Juno Racing
  • Barry Jackson - Hivehaus


Jonathan Thomas, sector lead for advanced manufacturing for the Business Growth and Innovation team at Lancashire County Developments Ltd


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