BBC’s Steph McGovern champions UK manufacturing at MACH

Activities on Day Two of MACH kicked off at the crack of dawn, with BBC Breakfast’s business correspondent Steph McGovern – a former engineering apprentice for Black & Decker – presenting her slot live from the Education and Development Zone.

Steph is a passionate supporter of apprenticeships as a way into industry, and addressing the skills shortage in manufacturing is a subject dear to her heart.

“Manufacturing is an industry I’m very proud of, because it’s where I started out my career,” Steph said at MACH between her live BBC slots. “Many years ago, I was a trainee engineer for a manufacturer up in the north-east. For me, that was such an amazing start to my career. It’s given me credibility, it’s given me experience, and it’s given me skills that make me stand out from other people.

“We need to talk about and showcase manufacturing more, because it’s a really exciting industry. It can be a way to open the door to lots of jobs, and to travel the world, and to work at the cutting-edge of technology.”

However, Steph believes the UK has the wrong attitude to apprenticeships, particularly in the perception that a young person choosing to take the apprentice route has in some way achieved less than someone going into further education.

“I don’t think in this country we value apprentices enough. People are not given the same esteem as when they have gone straight down the academic route, and I believe that is categorically wrong. I am someone who did both – I had an apprenticeship with Black & Decker and they paid for my degree. It’s a great way to be able to learn and to get great work experience, and not come out with any debt.

“I’m not saying people shouldn’t go to university,” she concludes, “there just needs to be parity of esteem between the two, because we have a skills gap and the only way we are going to solve it is to go into the world of work and do the training where we have that gap.”

VISITOR VOX POPS

Samuel Wilson, Lichfield

What persuaded you to visit MACH?

I’m hoping to get into engineering in the next couple of years, working in alignment. My dad is an employee of one of the exhibitors here, and I wanted to see what’s going on. It’s interesting to look around at everything.

What attracts you to this industry?

Being interested in engineering and seeing how things work and fixing things. Getting down to the nitty gritty. I will be going offshore to massive oil rigs, and to massive power stations and fixing them myself.

What has caught your eye at MACH?

There’s quite a lot to take in. As you go around, you see these massive metal designs. And watching a 3D printer in action is just amazing.

Ahmed Sangari, MD, AB Sangari, Iran

What are you looking for at MACH?

I am visiting for machine tools and measuring equipment used for technical education – for training and colleges.

Did you come to the UK specifically to visit MACH?

No, but it is one of the main reasons I am here.

What has caught your eye?

There is a lot of technology here that is interesting to me. There is a lot to see, and it’s easy to find. I found what I came here looking for.

Marie Wells, Senior Research Engineer, Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC), Warwick

What attracted you to MACH?

I work for one of the government catapult centres, and being in contact with the suppliers is really important. The only way to know what we want to develop next at lower TRLs is to know what’s going on at the coalface of production.

What are your impressions?

I’ve been specifically looking for certain things here to do with CNC machine suppliers. I find that talking to people versus email is invaluable. Shows like this, where you meet the people, means it’s easier going forward.

Has any specific technology caught your eye?

I was doing a project where I needed chips to be formed when they were being machined. I heard about Citizen’s LFV technology. It was just really nice to see it in the flesh – until you get the chance to see it and touch it, you never get the real feel for it. Engineering is a hands-on activity.