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Primary school children should be introduced to the wonders of manufacturing and engineering, says Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce

2 November 2022
The Business Magazine article image for: Primary school children should be introduced to the wonders of manufacturing and engineering, says Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce

Primary school children in the Midlands should be introduced to the wonders of manufacturing and engineering to help inspire the next generation of professionals in the industry, says Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce.

That was one of the key messages that a group of regional business leaders raised with MPs during a visit to Parliament.

The event, organised by the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce and hosted by Marcus Jones, the MP for Nuneaton, saw 22 businesspeople from the regional Manufacturing, Automotive, Construction and Engineering (MACE) sectors head to Parliament to discuss issues facing their industries.

They ranged from rising prices and a shortage of materials to issues with trade on the back of Brexit and the growing skills gap.

Alongside Marcus Jones, MPs from both sides of the House of Commons Chamber listened with interest as the firms described what was holding back growth, including Taiwo Owatemi, MP for Coventry North West; Saqib Bhatti MBE, MP for Meriden; Matt Western, MP for Warwick and Leamington; and Amanda Solloway, MP for Derby North.

The gathered business leaders also heard from Graham Stuart MP, the Minister for Climate, who said that the drive to net zero should not only be positive news for the environment but also for British businesses and the UK economy.

Tom Mongan, the president of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “I am proud to hold this role and I am proud to be representing manufacturing.

“We are seeing an unprecedented range of issues facing businesses in this sector in Coventry and Warwickshire and it was great to be able to take them to Parliament and have our voices heard by MPs from our region, elsewhere and Ministers too.

“I would really like to see the perception of the industry changed. Many still think it is dirty, greasy and messy and that it requires no skill. Every single person working in manufacturing and engineering knows that isn’t true – but we need everyone else to know.

“We are trying to change the views of 15 and 16-year-olds and their families when they have made up their mind about what they want to do. We need to get to kids at primary age and show them how much fun, how interesting and rewarding our industry is.

“I would say to the mainstream media, please help us. When soap operas introduce a character that works in manufacturing, they only ever show someone who works as a car mechanic as if that is where the industry starts and ends, while those who are seen as successful usually work in an office in a suit.

“There is nothing wrong with either of those but we really do need to start making people understand what we do in manufacturing and what an incredible career it can be.

“You only have to look in Coventry and Warwickshire at the amazing businesses and the amazing skills we have to know what the industry offers.”

The event was organised by Chamber head of policy Sean Rose and was chaired by board member David Burton.

Corin Crane, the chief executive of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “We know that Government money is going to be at a premium so we have to find solutions that can be cost-effective.

“We have lots of manufacturers advertising for apprenticeships but many of those positions are not being filled.

“Some of that is linked to benefits and how a household can lose money if a young person takes up a role as an apprentice, especially when the minimum wage is lower at the age of 18 for an apprentice than it is for anyone else.

“The Apprenticeship Levy is a great idea in principle, but we need to rethink the way we use it so that it can operate in a more productive way for everyone.

“I would also say, on a broader point, that we also need to look at making it easier to bring in workers from overseas to help with the skills crisis to give us time to grow our own. You can argue that it should have been done before, but it wasn’t, and we need to address it.”

Marcus Jones said: “It was great to be able to welcome the delegation from the Chamber to Parliament and that so many colleagues from across the House could spend time listening to the views of businesses.

“It makes a real difference to come here and meet face-to-face, something that we haven’t been able to do in recent years and I look forward to continuing to work with the Chamber as we look to grow our local economy – and manufacturing has a big role to play in that.”

Peter Davison is deputy editor of The Business Magazine. He has spent his life in journalism – doing work experience in newsrooms in and around Bristol while still at school, and landing his first job on a local newspaper aged 19. By 28 he was the youngest newspaper editor in the country.

An early advocate of online news, he spent the first years of the 2000s telling his bosses that the internet posed both the biggest opportunity and greatest threat to the newspaper industry and the art of journalism. He was right on both counts.

Since 2006 he has enjoyed a career as a freelance journalist. He lives in rural Wiltshire with one wife, two children, and three cats.

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