As part of the Made Futures Virtual Careers Fair, Made in Group sat down with 5 industry experts from the Birmingham, Coventry, Warwickshire and Worcestershire region, to discuss employability, provide an insight into the skills which Midlands industry is looking for and highlight practical ways of to break into or developing a career in manufacturing.
With there being a different event every day of the expo within various regions throughout the country, these "Meet Britain's Makers" comprises a panel of experts who will share their own career stories, tips and information on their sector, followed by an opportunity to ask questions.
Emma Hockley, Managing Director of Big Bear Plastic Products, began by providing a brief overview of her career to this point. Based in Worcester, Big Bear Plastic Products Ltd is the UK's leading manufacturer of technical thermoformed plastic products.
Emma also highlighted how having experience in different industries to manufacturing and engineering can actually benefit someone's career through providing them with transferable skills - such as her own background at a well-known department store - so it may never be too late to swap sectors.
James Sopwith, Group Strategic Account Director at Systems adi Group Limited, highlighted the wide-reaching importance of supporting the next generation of engineers; with adi Group themselves employing 700 engineers at their Birmingham-based business.
James later highlighted the need to "bust" some of the myths surrounding the UK manufacturing & engineering industry, such as it being "dirty" or "low paid". "It's neither", emphasised James.
Responding to a question which was posed from Made in Group's Yasmin Banner to all of the 5 speakers - "What tips would you offer job seekers in regards to employability skills?" - Jeff Nowill championed the importance of "keeping an open mind" when it comes to advancing your career.
Jeff, who started an apprenticeship shortly after leaving school, can back up the merit behind this advice through his own career - now being the CEO of KUKA UK, who are well-known globally for leading the way in robot-based automation.
Tanya George, who is the HR Business Partner at Magna, emphasised that to have a successful career within this industry you need a "multitude of skills" and, ultimately, "hard work makes a really huge difference when you want to succeed".
Magna are known to offer a variety of internships, graduate programs and full-time opportunities - both from their UK premises in Banbury and internationally.
Rebecca Waterfield, Head of Employer Engagement at South & City College Birmingham, provided some practical advice on making sure that jobseekers do their research on a company and job role, to ensure that they can demonstrate the skills that are being asked for. Rebecca suggested that it can be difficult for some people to recognise their own skill set, however, taking some time to reflect on this is ultimately key.
Following on from speaking with the expert panelists, Breakout Rooms were then created through Zoom, giving the chance for employers and jobseekers alike to network. The employers are given roughly 2 minutes to talk about their business, direct attendees to visit their expo stand etc. Then jobseekers, students and any other attendees get 60 seconds to tell the room about themselves and network.