Much has been made of the so-called inspiration gap within manufacturing at present, but there are signs that some of the industry’s leading protagonists are promoting an environment of change.
In a recent Epicor study in the UK, more than 300 manufacturing executives put their company’s inspiration rating at only 5.7 out of 10, indicating the need for a change of mindset.
Only six percent of respondents in the survey rated themselves as highly inspired while nearly two-thirds signaled the need for the industry to adapt significantly if it is to achieve future success.
To get the inside track on what it is like trying to break into the industry, Manufacturing Digital spoke to Jessica Charter who has recently completed a one year placement at Rolls Royce as a Manufacturing Systems Engineer and believes, through her own intensive experiences with the manufacturing giant, that more can be done to encourage the next generation of skills into the sector.
Manufacturing Digital (MD): Could you firstly describe your early ambitions and your subsequent decision to enter the world of manufacturing?
Jessica Charter (JC): I’d always been interested in the concept of engineering, taking something and seeing what was possible in order to improve on it. The manufacturing sector seemed structured and process orientated which appealed to me, given my analytical educational background. Then when I finished my A-levels in math, physics, design and technology I opted for a year in industry and was lucky to get a good position at Rolls Royce.
MD: In what ways did your time at Rolls Royce confirm your interest in continuing this path into the industry?
JC The experience of working at Rolls Royce was amazing and opened my eyes up to the manufacturing industry and the opportunities it offers. It fuelled my interest in aerospace engineering and led me to carry out an extended project researching the fundamental principles of a Gas Turbine Engine. I took my interest a step further by attending a training course and examination and gained a Level 1 Award on Basic Holistic Gas Turbines.
MD: How well were you received by fellow workers as a young person entering the industry?
JC: I really loved working at Rolls Royce. Not only are the people there very friendly but as a young person and a female I was welcomed, taken seriously and treated with respect from more experienced members of the team – like I’d worked there for a few years, not just a pre-university student.
MD: Do you feel that common perceptions and images of getting into manufacturing were confirmed or slightly off from your early experience at a major company like Rolls Royce?
JC Honestly, I didn’t really know what to expect – but I quickly found that I loved the culture and values in this branch of the manufacturing industry. What I liked most of all was knowing that the day to day work I did resulted in continuous measureable improvement in the company’s manufacturing systems. Each project I worked on resulted in significant financial savings.
MD: A lot has been made of the so-called ‘inspiration gap’ currently occurring within manufacturing, so do you feel that you have been suitably ‘inspired’ and encouraged to enter this industry throughout the education process?
JC I would put my level of inspiration at nine out of ten. I think manufacturing is inspiring in that you can take a process and look to make it better. Once you’ve done that you can take and apply that knowledge to other situations, sharing it with the team around you so everyone can tangibly see what you have done that makes a difference to the business.
MD: What is the general feeling among your peers and people you have learnt alongside in regards to levels of inspiration to enter the industry at such a young age?
JC As a career option, manufacturing provides you with the opportunity to learn on the job and develop transferable skills. If you have passion you can go into any manufacturing role and succeed. However I do feel that the manufacturing sector has not been very well understood and many do not consider it as a career option simply because they are not exposed to its true potential.
MD: In the long term, what are your personal aspirations, and how do you feel that the industry and its ability to inspire young people will develop?
JC One day I’d like to lead and inspire more people into engineering and also the manufacturing industry. I would especially like to inspire more women into manufacturing as I believe that they have a great deal to add to the sector.
Aside from this I think the public image of the industry is actually far from the reality of it, which is one of the main problems in terms of inspiring young people. You don’t really know what it’s like to work in the sector until you’ve tried it and many people just think it’s about factories and machinery.
Actually it’s just as much about people working effectively together - as in the services industries. The difference in manufacturing is that you all contribute to a tangible finished product to be proud of at the end of the day.
MD: What do you feel needs to change to encourage more young people into manufacturing in the future?
JC There are definitely not as many young people in the industry as there should be. I would urge anyone to give it a try and have no preconceptions.
This lack of attracted talent and skills is probably down to the image that the industry portrays more than anything else, so a key development would be to work on this image – to let a true picture of the inspirational culture to shine through.
My experiences are only good and suggest that the sector is full of inspired people who can help to overcome this image problem. For me it was great to be part of a team of professionals all working towards a common goal.