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Manufacturing Matters North West celebrates optimistic and thriving sector

Addressing more than 200 delegates at the Manufacturing Matters North West 2014 conference, the speakers were united in acknowledging and applauding the hard work of North West manufacturers, who now employ more people in the sector than any other region of the UK.

Speakers from a range of successful NW manufacturers including Andy Okolowicz of New Balance, Graham Wardlow of Magnesium Elektron, James Baker of the National Graphene Institute and MBDA Apprentice of the Year Jade Aspinall were also agreed on the need for more help for manufacturers in key areas such as investment in technology, access to finance, leadership, the importance of collaboration and a need to inspire and educate young people.

Graham Wardlow called for all manufacturers to volunteer to spend an hour of their time visiting schools to talk to them about modern manufacturing and show just what a range of exiting career opportunities are now available to them with the introduction of 21st century technologies including robotics and 3D production.

Jade Aspinall spoke about her journey to becoming SEMTA Apprentice of the Year saying: “When I was at school I had the stereotypical view of manufacturing as a dirty industry and at 18 I was told that women don’t go into engineering. This year I won Apprentice of the Year and am on the path to reach my career goal of becoming a principal engineer. Out of the 70 apprentices at MBDA 50% are female and I would encourage all manufacturers to consider taking on apprentices, as I really do believe they are the future of all businesses.”

Richard Jeffery, Director of the Business Growth Hub, said: “This year’s event was a fantastic celebration of the work of our local manufacturers and an opportunity for us to understand more about their needs and growth journeys. 95% of manufacturers are SMEs and they face many similar challenges, from how to improve leadership to supply chain improvement. Manufacturers generally are more confident than ever in the future of their industry but remain cautious about key areas such as accessing finance and recruiting the next generation workforce. These are areas that MAS is addressing and improving, by working with the government to develop more vocational college courses for example. MAS has also worked with manufacturers like New Balance, which now has 50 new people that they are training over the next three years.”

Since 2013 MAS has disbursed more than £2m to support over 1600 manufacturers, creating or safeguarding 4000 jobs in the North West. £700k is still available to eligible manufacturers before the 2015 funding deadline for grants up to£10k that can be invested in improvement projects ranging from sales and marketing strategy and NPD to staff training and working towards ISO 9001*

The Manufacturing Matters North West conference took place at the AJ Bell Stadium on 25th June 2014 as part of the International Festival of Business Manufacturing, Science and Technology week. The event showcased the full range of support that is available from both MAS and many other business support agencies and was free to attend for manufacturers. The full day conference was partnered by the Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS), the Business Growth Hub and NatWest and was designed for business leaders and professionals from the manufacturing sector who are looking to grow, innovate and thrive.

MAS advisors work with manufacturing SMEs at strategic and operational levels to create business and manufacturing strategies. They can help companies develop a culture of innovation, generate new product ideas and market opportunities, as well as working to reduce waste and maximise profitability internally and within their supply chains.

*More information about funding eligibility is available at http://www.mymas.org/resources/grants-funding

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