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We need more young people in manufacturing.”

This is something regular blog readers will have heard me say many a time.

Why do we need more young people in manufacturing?

1) For starters, we have quite the skills gap:

Three-quarters of manufacturers are concerned about their ability to get the skills their businesses needs.

Three-quarters of manufacturers have struggled to fill engineering roles in the past 3 years.


2) We also have an ageing workforce:

Two-fifths of manufacturers say over 40% of their workforce is aged over 50


3) We aren’t even scratching the surface in terms of supply and demand:

Engineering UK predicts we need around 265,000 skilled entrants into engineering each year between now and 2020

This requires a good doubling of the current apprentice and graduates we have now.

So why aren’t we getting the numbers?


Despite our best efforts, the message about the opportunities and attractiveness of a career in manufacturing just isn’t getting through.

The image of blue overalls and grimy looking factories still prevails. Manufacturers aren’t selling themselves to young people. They aren’t telling young people that many companies are already seeing 4IR become a reality, they are adopting cutting edge technologies that their employees work alongside robots, known as cobots.

We also aren’t selling the word “engineer” well either. Engineer = boiler man or photocopy fix it man right? Wrong! Engineer can be:

  • Roller-coaster Engineer working at Thorpe Park
  • Live Sound Engineering working at Glastonbury
  • An Engineer and Space Scientist helping send NASA missions to Mars

You only have to check our Tomorrow’s Engineers Real Jobs to see just what engineers do!

So how do you sell manufacturing to the next generation?

Well, given it is the Year of Engineering, we decided it was a case of taking your problem solving engineers engineers, you bring them together with creative and innovative tech experts and most importantly you add to the mix the next generation, who bring with them a bucket load of new fresh ideas and a whole load of enthusiasm.


And what do you get…the very first #EEFHackathon!


That’s right, last Thursday in Shoreditch, East London we bought together some of the best and brightest minds inside and outside of manufacturing.

We tasked them to use technology to come up with a new approach to get more young people into engineering with BBC Click’s technology show Katie Russell hosting the show.

This unique event featured a range of creative minds including designers and technology experts, students from University of Westminster and Harris Academy, apprentices, and a host of EEF members including Williams F1, Fuji Films and Estee Lauder….as well as EEF’s own Education and Skills Policy Adviser Bhavina!


So what happened? I hear you cry!

Attendees were split into groups of mixed backgrounds and were asked to solve the recruitment crisis.

One entry devised an app that easily connects pupils and students with local manufacturing firms, by creating an online profile on their GPS location, interests and grades.

Another set about designing a Facebook Live-style TV show whereby the hosts would challenge STEM-related groups and local youth clubs to record and submit their very own life hacks, with the winner chosen by the public.

The eventual winner of #EEFHackathon clinched the best idea prize by setting out to influence and inspire new generations to challenge the conventional perceptions of engineering. The group produced an augmented reality app that merges engineering to the interests of each pupil.


Pretty impressive huh?

It’s amazing what a meeting of minds can achieve.

We will keep on banging the policy drum here at EEF to make sure manufacturers can engage and recruit the next generation. But we call on our members, and the wider industry, to think creative when recruiting the innovators, creators and makes of the future.


Check out a short video of the #EEFHackathon here:


Interested in becoming an EEF member and getting involved in a future #EEFHackathon ? Check out Core Membership here