The export potential of the Sheffield region’s manufacturing sector and the skills of its young engineers are emerging as two key themes for next month’s Global Manufacturing Festival: Sheffield.
Linked to that will be the need for firms to be ready to seize the opportunities offered by a civil nuclear power programme which is rapidly gaining momentum despite what some see as Government foot dragging.
Organisers are expecting at least 50 key international visitors, in addition to a trade delegation from Chengdu in China, Richmond in the USA and the Danish equivalent of this region’s Advanced Manufacturing Park.
Leading figures from key UK contractors will also be among those attending events which will last the whole month, but really gets underway in earnest on Monday, March 14.
Meanwhile, young people who are leading the way and showing their potential to become the next generation of skilled engineers, taking the region’s advanced manufacturers forward to the future, will find themselves at the heart of the Festival’s promotional campaign.
The hope is that focusing on them will not only demonstrate to visitors – and procurement chiefs from global players in particular – that Sheffield will continue to have the skills to produce the hi-tech materials and components the world needs. It will also convince youngsters that engineering doesn’t mean dirty overalls, oily rags and spanners, but is a fascinating, rewarding and, these days, a far more secure career to follow.
“I think the Festival will put Sheffield back on the map as a manufacturing centre,” says Kevin Parkin, who leaves DavyMarkham tomorrow after completing the job of turning the business around and putting it back in its place as a major international business, but remains committed to staying in the region and seeking new projects to pursue.
“For many years people got the wrong impression of Sheffield. We need to move away from the Full Monty and its historic past. The Kelham Island Industrial Museum is very nice, but our industry is very different today. We are into modern manufacturing, we have got a motivated workforce, we don’t have massive labour problems. We have a completely different outlook on productivity, efficiency and how to do things. We also need to tell the world about the superb skills base we have developed.”
Brendan Moffett, from city development company Creativesheffield says Sheffield has an opportunity to raise its game as the Government puts increasing emphasis on local regions building their economies on a national and international stage, following the demise of regional development authorities, such as Yorkshire Forward, and the creation of Local Enterprise Partnerships.
Mr Moffett sees the private sector initiated Festival as a perfect opportunity for Sheffield to put its case to central government, investors, buyers, critical audiences and international markets.
Transforming what was originally going to be a local manufacturing event into a global festival has put organisers under more pressure, Brendan Moffett admits, but he relishes that challenge and the opportunities that presents.
“We are doing this to put Sheffield at the forefront. We are leading the manufacturing recovery, we are aligned to central government’s plans, targeting emerging markets and new territories and, on the back of that, we are creating a skilled workforce from the next generation,” says Mr Moffett.