The UK manufacturing industry is currently responsible for the direct employment of in excess of 2.6 million people.
And, if the latest report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) is anything to go by, UK manufacturing as a whole is on an upward trajectory.
As online magazine The Manufacturer outlined in a recent article, UK industry has demonstrated growth of 1.4% each year since 1948 - thanks in no small part to the creation of a better quality and more skilled workforce, a shift from the production of low to high productivity goods, increased investment in Research and Development (R&D) and improvements in technology and automation.
What's more, the UK is currently ranked the world’s eighth largest industrial nation - and if growth continues at the same rate, is on track to break into the top five industrial nations within the next three years.
However, according to figures provided in the latest ONS report, the split between male and female employees is significant - with men accounting for 76% of the total manufacturing workforce and women making up just 24%.
So what exactly is being done to encourage the recruitment, and retention, of more women within the UK manufacturing environment?
Busting manufacturing myths
Part of the solution to encouraging more women into manufacturing could well lie in discouraging some of the common 'myths.'
There's the misconception, for example, that manufacturing is somehow inherently dirty or unsafe - something that in the early stages of the industrial revolution would undoubtedly have been the case.
But innovative developments in technology, together with an investment in stringent health and safety regulations, means that the 21st century manufacturing environment is a very different place to that of a century or more ago.
What's more, the majority of modern industrial equipment has been ergonomically designed and fitted with safety functions.
There's also the common assumption that a future in manufacturing means spending your entire career on the shop floor.
While roles within production will always continue to offer diverse employment opportunities there are also a multitude of other career paths to consider - from CAD designers to quality controllers, programmers, researchers or working in the areas of procurement, finance, management, marketing or sales.
Women & Diversity in Manufacturing Summit
Alongside debunking the myths about manufacturing, there's also the importance of spearheading national campaigns and events that actively promote women in manufacturing.
One such example is the Women and Diversity in Manufacturing Summit which will be held at the Liverpool Exhibition Centre on 21 June, 2018.
The summit will be co-located with the International Business Festival, with the specific objective of encouraging greater numbers of women and minority groups to join the manufacturing workforce.
The day-long programme will include a diverse choice of 'discussion-table' conversations, facilitated by experts from across the global manufacturing industry.
Discussion leaders who have been confirmed to attend include:
- Susan Jones - Senior Quality Systems Specialist at Tata Steel
- Fiona Anderson - Founding Director of Koolmill Systems
- Alison Dowd - Global Director of Continuous Improvement at Dura Automotive
- Laura McBrown - Managing Director of G&B Electronics
- Maureen Askew - Senior Controller at Unipres
- Sarrawat Rehman - Principal Research Engineer at JRI Orthopedics
The conference will offer the opportunity for delegates and speakers to share their experiences and perspectives, focused around three key subject areas:
1) Vocational and Academic Pathways
2) Recruitment and Career Paths
- offering insight into the importance of improving technical skills, the value of STEM apprenticeships, societal challenges and networking
- including conversations on influence, strategies for high-achieving women, tomorrow's challenges and thinking out-of-the-box
As the summit's host, Managing Director of The Manufacturer, Grace Gilling, explains: "There are lots of exciting career opportunities in manufacturing, and it's vital that younger people see both inspiring men and women in the careers that drive the nation's economy.
"I'm really excited to host an event led by so many vibrant women, in an industry which has long been seen as a man's world."