by Sally Clifford

“BRADFORD Manufacturing Weeks are ‘transformative’ for our school and this year will really support us in meeting the government’s new Gatsby benchmarks,” says Robert Fairbairn, business and careers lead at Oastler School, Bradford.

Recognising the benefits Bradford’s Manufacturing Weeks are bringing - last year’s saw 3,000 manufacturing experiences offered to pupils aged 16-plus - Robert Fairbairn said the 2018 event introduced him to six local employers and ensured the school met five and six of the eight Gatsby benchmarks in just three months. “Achieving the Gatsby benchmarks is important for us but what really matters is engaging with young people in a way which makes them see the opportunities and potential - not only in business but in themselves,” said Robert.

Building on the legacy of last year’s inaugural event, Bradford Manufacturing Weeks 2019, running from October 7-18, will give young people the opportunity to go behind the scenes of manufacturers in the district and see the possibilities of professions they may not have considered, or even realised were available.

Launched by Bradford Chamber of Commerce and co-ordinated by career specialists Aspire-igen, the event is delivering more than 4,000 manufacturing experiences over two weeks, endorsed by Bradford Council, Bradford Economic Partnership and Bradford University with key sponsors and supporters including Barclays, accountants Naylor Wintersgill, law firm Gordons, building services specialists Mitton, professional training and development company Dale Carnegie, E3 Recruitment and Leeds Bradford Airport.

Now organisers want to involve more businesses in the not-for-profit event uniting manufacturers, schools, young people and parents through tours, work experiences, seminars and learning events at companies districtwide.

The success stories from last year speak for themselves. Mark Viner, managing director of Skipton-based Guyson International Ltd, a leading blast, ultrasonic and spray washing equipment manufacturer which hosted South Craven School, Keighley College and Skipton Girls High, said they were so impressed by the students they offered two apprenticeships. Kyle Elliott, 18, from Eastburn secured his mechanical design engineer apprenticeship through Guyson after the firm visited South Craven School. Kyle, who joined Guyson this month, is carrying the baton from his grandfathers who both worked in engineering. “It has opened my eyes. I never thought about ultra sonic cleaning and blast finishing,” said Kyle. “I have now secured a job for the next four years and further on. Without it Bradford Manufacturing Week I wouldn’t be where I am or have a clear understanding of where I want to be in future. It has opened up my eyes to so many different areas of engineering.”

Ben Bott, 16, from Bradford visited aerospace component manufacturer, Produmax, and secured a three-year mechanical engineering apprenticeship in August. The former Hanson Academy student spent two weeks at the Shipley-based company before embarking on an 18-week course at Keighley College which will allow him to put his knowledge into practice within the workforce. Ben said working alongside staff on the shop floor during his placement was an “honour”.

Now he’s working alongside them. “On the first day I looked at my lanyard and it said employee. It was a brilliant feeling,” said Ben, who particularly loves being “hands-on”. “That’s one of the reasons I aspired to go for an apprenticeship. It allows me to be flexible,” he said, adding that he can’t thank Bradford Chamber and its Bradford Manufacturing Week enough. “It’s the best thing that has ever happened to me. This apprenticeship is my future,” he said. Ben is aiming to progress further in the company once he’s finished his course. “They're a brilliant company, I would like to stay long-term,” he said.

Mandy Ridyard, financial director at Produmax, said: “For me it’s being able to show people in school that there are other options, apart from the ones that tend to jump to the top of their parents’ or schoolteachers’ lists. I want them to see manufacturing and engineering for themselves, that is why we supported Bradford Manufacturing Week last year and this year. It’s about re-setting the profile of manufacturing, so people realise what modern manufacturing is about, and what a rewarding career it is.”

Nishta Watkiss, marketing executive at Keighley-based specialist fastening system manufacturer, GESIPA, who took part last year and is involved in 2019, said they are conscious of bridging the skills gap and giving young people chance to gain experience. In 2018 students from the science department at South Craven School, Cross hills and Parkside School, Cullingworth gained an insight into GESIPA’s operations through factory tours and team building exercises. Parents have been invited in too, to raise awareness of roles on offer.

“It is the responsibility of any business to make sure children have the right experience in terms of the business world,” said Nishta. “You can teach them as much as you want, but in the real world they need to know what goes on there. The benefit goes both ways - students get to know what goes on in business and what subjects they need and businesses like ours want to attract a younger workforce.”

Robert Fairbairn says Bradford Manufacturing Week 2018 led to work placements for all Year 10 students. He added: “Providing opportunities to meet and speak with local employers is key but with demands for our time coming from so many different areas, the value of an initiative which creates and provides those opportunities is like gold dust. Since attending our first Bradford Manufacturing Week event in September 2018, the benefits have literally mushroomed and we’ve gone from having no employer partners to six – a number which continues to grow. Of course we’re onboard again for 2019 – it’s one of the highlights of our annual calendar.”

Andy Murphy, managing director of Wibsey-based Melrose Interiors, said last year’s event inspired them to create entirely new apprenticeships. “We were involved with visits from two schools - Bradford Girls Grammar and One in a Million - and we learned just as much from the pupils as they did from us,” said Andy. “Managing our talent pipeline is hugely important and Bradford Manufacturing Week 2018 helped us look closely at our workplace offering and reassess our business culture, based on what we saw and heard from the young people who visited us.

“Thanks to this initiative, we’ve now had an insight into what switches young people on which will definitely help us attract the next generation of manufacturers into our business. We’re repeating our involvement again and with the changes we have made to our business, fully expect this year to attract apprentices from Bradford Manufacturing Weeks to our growing team in 2020.”

Event founder, Nick Garthwaite, former Bradford Chamber of Commerce president and managing director of Bradford-based international chemicals and detergents manufacturer, Christeyns, said businesses are putting their ‘heart and soul’ into the event and enjoying the experience along with older workers who are keen to share their skills and expertise with young visitors.

Nick said the event was also providing teachers with “an alternative view of how to access the world of work by showing businesses in action”.

He added: “The other legacy is the relationship is being maintained between the schools and businesses – that has kept on throughout 2019 and I feel confident that will continue for 2020 and beyond,” he added.

• To get involved in this year’s Bradford Manufacturing Weeks October 7-18 register at

• Visit; contact the Bradford Chamber team on (01274) 206660 or email