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4th Aug 2017

Why the manufacturing sector needs YOU!

David Elliott

Another day, another industry crying out for talent.

I know what you’re thinking: “he’s going to talk about the IT or the construction industry again”, but no, it’s actually the manufacturing sector (you know, the actual process of making stuff?).

Back in the day, Northern Ireland used to be a world leader in manufacturing - whether it be linen, ships or aeroplanes – and most of the working population here was closely linked to a factory floor or a ship yard.

The sector has been through some tough times but is holding its own with some amazingly innovative (a terrible word but one which can’t be overlooked when it comes to this bunch), outward-looking and driven bunch.

Some of the more obvious ones are London bus maker Wrightbus, aeroplane parts maker Bombardier and former ship builder-turned-heavy fabricator Harland & Wolff.

But there is also a raft of others out there that make amazing things in an amazing manner to be shipped off to amazing places.

There’s the likes of Whale Pumps from Bangor which make pumps for boats and caravans in all corners of the globe, Greyabbey’s Huddleston Engineering which makes aeroplane parts which are being flown around the world at this very moment and then there’s the fact that an expert band of companies in Tyrone and the surrounding area account for 40% of the world’s screening and crushing equipment.

This is only the tip of the iceberg with a huge number of varied firms out there making things you wouldn’t think possible in the confines of Northern Ireland.

And, after sitting down to breakfast with a group of manufacturing bosses today, it’s clear that nearly all these companies are struggling to find enough of the right kind of workers.

In fact, many place the lack of talent as more of a threat to their business than Stormont’s ineptitude, Trump, high energy costs, rubbish infrastructure or Brexit (the latter point could exacerbate the problem if the free flow of labour is interrupted when we leave the European Union).

They need engineers, assembly line workers, designers, managers…you name it, the manufacturing sector is crying out for it.

When trying to drill down on why there was such a dearth of workers, the assembled group said a desire by young people to take their career into the services or IT sectors may be a reason, as both are industries which the IT-savvy can relate to, but there was loss as to why the problem had become so exacerbated.

It’s not as if it doesn’t pay well, offering as it does a premium to roles in other sectors.

In truth it’s probably because the manufacturing sector doesn’t do a great job in spreading the word as to how rewarding a career in the industry can be.

It is doing itself a disservice because it’s clear from the companies which I’ve visited and by the people from manufacturing which I’ve met that it’s one of the most fulfilling and one which talented people will thrive.

So if you’ve yet to decide on a career, want to change your path or are giving advice to someone starting out, don’t overlook the manufacturing sector which will welcome any new talent with open arms. 

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