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The EEF Manufacturing Conference may be over, but the take-aways are still fresh in my mind. I think the inspiring impact will resonate with me for quite a while. Here is what my “best of” clips look like.

First of all, EEF picked an exceptional day to hold the event—my birthday. I must say I have never had a birthday party that was so well-attended by so many VIPs!

Interesting speakers included Martin Wolf, Associate Editor and Chief Economics Commentator at the Financial Times, even though he predicted that the UK economy would contract by 2-3% in 2020 due to Brexit. Some may say that was good news, as many expected the impact could be worse. Like all things, we shall have to wait and see.

Manufacturers are working hard to overcome the possible negative impact of Brexit and take advantage of new opportunities which are unfolding, such as digital technologies. This optimism and commitment to the future was evident in the Smart Energy Revolution panel with Toyota, Origami Energy and Lombard, chaired by Professor Steve Evans of University of Cambridge. I loved the opening line, “Who’s smart, energetic and revolting?”

Cormac Watters, General Manager Europe and Executive Vice President, Infor, continued this theme as he turned our attention to the lingering skills gap in manufacturing. “Manufacturers must embrace tech & social media to make the industry attractive to the people it’s trying to recruit, with research showing this is valued by employees. We must make manufacturing a destination of choice,” said Watters.

Jason Muller, Global Manufacturing Director Lush Ltd, reiterated some of the issues, stressing the role education system plays in presenting manufacturing as a “real career.” We know it is most certainly very real, very important to the economy, locally and globally.

I was especially pleased to hear Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Opposition, discussing the need to encourage more women in engineering. Practical skills must be introduced from an early age, he said, stressing that at an early age children should be exposed to tools to help understand how and why things are made. This must carry through to secondary education and then further learning.

My favourite clips from the day would have to conclude with highlights from the fabulous session by Richard Reed, co-founder of Innocent. He was absolutely hilarious with his story of how the company was founded one weekend with his best mates, while recovering from a hangover. I particularly loved the “social experiment” which was very creative. They launched at a festival, and put signs over the rubbish bins. “Did you like our smoothies? Yes or No.” Participants voted by selecting which bin to toss their used bottles.  There was only one in the “No” bin (allegedly from Reed’s mother)! It was a great way to end the content sessions because he was inspirational and he made manufacturing sound fun again.

And, that is the key take away of the entire event for me. Those of us in manufacturing need to be inspired again. We need to make manufacturing fun again.

This EEF conference was certainly a step forward along that journey as so many committed industry leaders dedicated their time and effort to progress and improvement. Who could ask for anything more?

And, did I mention it was my birthday?