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Apprentices are key to growth plans for Greater Manchester’s manufacturing sector

Apprentices are a key part of the growth plans for Greater Manchester’s manufacturing sector businesses, according to a new survey and white paper released during National Apprenticeship Week (February 3rd-7th).

Over half of the region’s manufacturing firms polled in the survey recently said they are currently employing apprentices within their businesses and 40% are planning to recruit more apprentices this year.

When asked what they felt was the primary benefit of taking on apprentices, 93% said that it was having them trained to their specification, while another key finding was that 90% are planning to take on new staff this year with growth being given as the primary reason, which is a positive sign for the state of the industry for 2020.

The survey of more than 30 manufacturing firms was carried out by GC Business Growth Hub, part of The Growth Company and part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund.

It took place ahead of the launch of a new white paper - Attracting, retaining and developing talent - which aims to help manufacturing and engineering businesses recruit and keep the best people.

The white paper contains insights from a session at a recent Manufacturing Champions’ event where attendees discussed this issue. Contributions came from representatives of some of the most successful manufacturing firms in Greater Manchester, who shared their experiences of building and retaining a productive workforce as well as how to make the most out of apprenticeships.

Industry experts who have contributed to the white paper include Paul Kingston from Cargill Manchester, Dr Paul Hunt from Vitrex plc, Pamela Dodd from Hyde Aero Products, James Pickles from TP Group plc, as well as GC Business Growth Hub Senior Business Advisor Geoff Crossley.

Some of the issues covered include how to attract the next generation of employees to the manufacturing sector by developing a talent pipeline as well as ideas for how to retain apprentices once their training is complete.

There are also insights into how to solve the skills gap challenge as part of developing an employee resilience strategy and how to make sure staff are engaged and have bought into the business vision.

Janine Smith, Head of Specialist Services at GC Business Growth Hub said: “The results of this survey demonstrate the potential of apprenticeships to be a big part of how manufacturing businesses attract, retain and develop their talent.

“They also demonstrate real optimism in the sector, but as we often see with small and medium firms in this sector, managing the day-to-day business challenges prevents leaders from planning for the future.

“Our services help businesses to grow, whilst developing their people and their own expertise in order to future-proof their business. The release of our new white paper is timely as firms consider increasing headcount, developing their personnel and taking on more apprentices.”

Paul Kingston, General Manager for Cargill Manchester said: “Our dedicated apprenticeship scheme has seen 30 apprentices come through in all areas of our business in the last six years, from process operators to commercial and finance roles. A number of them have progressed through to our leadership development programme and we’re proud of our apprentice retention rate, which is helped by a real ‘recognition culture’ at Cargill.

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The Cargill apprenticeships scheme has seen 30 apprentices come through in all areas of the business.

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