Speaking during a global webinar last week, Sir Vince made the case that preparing today’s youth for careers in manufacturing was essential for closing the industry’s growing skills gap.

The webinar was organised by Merseyside-based valve manufacturer Heap & Partners.

Panellists attending the webinar – titled Manufacturing Education – warned the skills gap will only grow larger in a sector which is vital to the UK’s economy, unless the Government acts.

Redesigning apprenticeship schemes, showing viable career paths from STEM subjects, and ensuring teachers are equipped to promote manufacturing in the classroom are some measures the panel agreed would help the sector thrive.

UK manufacturing accounts for some £191 billion of output, while British manufacturers collectively provide 2.7 million jobs.

In 2019 manufacturing accounted for more than 17 percent of the UK’s GDP,[i] while today the sector accounts for around half of the country’s exports.

Despite this there is a growing skills gap in the sector, with 186,000 skilled individuals needing to be hired every year until 2024 to fill the void.

Joining Sir Vince Cable on the panel were the Daily Telegraph’s Education Editor Camilla Turner as chair, and Heap & Partners Managing Director David Millar.

Watch the full panel recording now by clicking here.

Academics to share their insights included Associate Professor Nadia Kourra, academic lead for NMITE’s Centre for Automated Manufacturing, and Dr Candice Majewski, Department of Mechanical Engineering, The University of Sheffield

The consensus from the panel was that placing a greater onus on manufacturing skills in the national curriculum would be crucial to ensuring both the sector and the UK’s economy thrive going forward.

The panel highlighted a lack of teacher training, a lack of engagement with students relating to manufacturing careers, and gender barriers as obstacles preventing today’s youths from choosing a career in the industry.

Reforming the British career advice system and apprenticeship schemes so students are more aware of potential jobs in the manufacturing sector would also have a positive impact, the panel said.

Their calls come after an Early Day Motion in March this year signed by some 18 MPs urged the Government to place a greater onus on manufacturing skills to prepare young people for a career in the industry.

Speaking during the event, Sir Vince Cable said: “Currently, the British career advice system is appalling. A properly tailored career program which includes manufacturing is essential.

“We need to give young people the capacity to learn, so they can learn new skills later in life, and we’re not focused enough on getting the education system orientated in delivering that capacity.”

David Millar, Heap & Partners Managing Director, said: “It’s very obvious to me that we need to start with the teachers. We need industrial placements for teachers so they can learn what can be done in manufacturing.

“Get them into five-star factories, with students, and get the teachers and students fired up at the prospect of manufacturing.

“Manufacturing is so exciting now and we need to be getting into schools and explaining how exciting it is.”

Nadia Kourra said: “Providing the material for teachers in order to support them in talking about manufacturing is important. Introducing more of the technology to the classroom is a must, even if it’s asking questions about how things are manufactured. It can get the youth fired up.”