Bradford Manufacturing Week is big deal, just as Number 10

I’ve always known Bradford was special, but my home city hit new heights last week. The Bradford Bulls won promotion to the Championship amid fantastic scenes at the Odsal Stadium and hundreds of young people discovered exciting new career paths through Bradford Manufacturing Week. Our Business Improvement District (BID) got the green light too, meaning an additional £2.5m investment in the city centre over the next five years.

Proud doesn’t come close to describing how I felt. Seeing the city come together showed what we can do when everyone’s noses are pointing in the same direction. The skills of individual players are the raw ingredients for the Bulls’ success, but mean nothing without teamwork. Manufacturers, schools, civic and business leaders united for Bradford Manufacturing Week with a shared goal of sparking young people’s imaginations about a career in manufacturing and to bang the drum for the sector.

Bradford Manufacturing Week is a big deal – just ask Number 10 Downing Street. Speaking ahead of the event, the Prime Minister Theresa May described it as “a great opportunity to demonstrate how our strong economy and modern industrial strategy is enabling business to thrive across all sectors, as well as enabling future generations to see the potential of a career in the manufacturing industry”.

The cream of our manufacturers – more than 40 companies all told – got behind the programme, including Christeyns, the chemicals and detergent maker with a plant in Bradford, Silsden-based Advanced Actuators, and Whitakers Chocolates, based in Skipton.

Here’s a statistic for you: half of all secondary schools in Bradford district got involved to give students work experience days, tours of plants, mock interviews, help with CVs and tips on how to make a good impression. At Airedale Chemical, young people got to look around the site and learn about different careers by meeting staff in marketing, accounts, transport and health and safety. Shipley-based CarnaudMetalbox pledged to deliver 1,000 work placement days and increase take-up of apprenticeships.

Manufacturing accounts for 10 per cent of the UK’s economy and employs 2.6 million people. In Bradford, it’s 12 per cent. According to EEF, the manufacturer’s organisation, 293,000 people work in the sector in Yorkshire and Humberside and output is £15.5bn per

year. It’s a sector that has had its challenges: the historic mills looming over Bradford are a vivid reminder of its history. But our best businesses are thriving.

The sector is currently grappling with the challenges – and opportunities – of Brexit. The value of the pound has fallen on the money markets due to uncertainty about what Brexit might mean for the UK. I know an opportunity when I see one. A cheaper pound means our products and services cost less abroad. This gives us a chance to sell more of what we make and deliver more of what we serve, driving up profits and money to invest in local businesses and jobs.

Whatever you think of Brexit, the Government has to ensure manufacturing stays front and centre. We need imaginative, radical policies for these uncertain times. Bradford has the fourth highest number of manufacturing jobs in the country, after London, Birmingham and Leeds. There are 1,200 manufacturing businesses in Bradford employing 25,000 people.

The Economic Strategy for Bradford District 2018-2030 makes clear our region’s strengths in

high value work, such as technology, pharmaceuticals and precision engineering. It’s a sector which should be championed.

Nick Garthwaite, managing director of Christeyns, brought the concept of Bradford Manufacturing Week to the Bradford Economic Partnership. We loved the idea and got right behind it, as did the Bradford Chamber of Commerce and a great many local employers.

Nick launched the week during his keynote speech as President of the Chamber last year.

He’s a great champion of the city and we’re lucky to have him on our board. Nick’s idea came about because local manufacturers can sometimes find it difficult to recruit young people. Last week’s events mean more young people now know about the range of careers and that this sector pays well.

There were some great moments as young people who perhaps hadn’t thought of a career in manufacturing became aware of some of the well-paid, rewarding jobs on their doorstep. I expect careers advisors in the region’s schools will be busy in the coming weeks speaking to students with inspired ideas about what they might do after school or college.

Approval for the BID, chaired by Ian Ward, was the third big success story last week. Eligible businesses and organisations were asked to vote for the scheme which will see them contribute through a small levy to raise money to invest in the city. The result was resounding: 79 per cent voted ‘Yes’. It was a great end to a great week.

  • Dave Baldwin is chairman of the Bradford Economic Partnership and chief executive of Burnley Football Club.

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