Virtual site tours, manufacturer talks and a competition to design a fun and practical hygiene station for schools and colleges are the format for next month’s Bradford Manufacturing Week 2020.

Manufacturers of products from textiles and laundry detergents to automotive components and process chemicals have signed up to provide career insight, advice and guidance to pupils from more than 35 schools across Bradford district.

Led by West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce and with primary sponsorship from Barclays, Bradford Manufacturing Weeks introduces students to a career in manufacturing through onsite and in-person employment experiences. Due to Covid-19 the two-week initiative from 5 – 16 October is entirely online with more than 40 manufacturer events spread across 10 days.

Nick Garthwaite, founder of the initiative, chairman of West and North Yorkshire Chamber of commerce and managing director of laundry detergent manufacturer Christeyns, said he is uplifted and “incredibly proud” of the way the sector has “stepped up” during the crisis.

“We all know our district’s young people have missed out on so much already this year and as an industry, a business community and a sector, we have absolutely stepped up to make sure we still deliver a careers experience that will make a difference to the lives of local youngsters – Bradford’s next generation of employees and employers.”

Delivered in partnership with Bradford-based school and career specialists Aspire-igen and  with continued sponsorship and support from Barclays, E3 Recruitment, Naylor Wintersgill, Gordons LLP and Bradford Council, Bradford Manufacturing Weeks also aims to create more inspired, informed and ‘work ready’ applicants into the sector by giving pupils the chance to prepare for the workplace. Events such as Barclays Life Skills sessions will include advice on preparing for work in a virtual jobs market.

Oastlers School in Bradford is taking part with its year 10 pupils for the third consecutive year and includes Bradford Manufacturing Weeks as a key part of its annual careers plan.

Careers Lead Robert Fairbairn said: “As we adapt to this ‘new normal’ of remote engagement with employers, Bradford Manufacturing Weeks 2020 is our first chance to bring the world of work directly into our classrooms and provides an early opportunity for the whole school to engage with local businesses.

“The talks, tours and Sani-Station Challenge allows us to develop curriculum-based activities across our core subjects and we can watch and ‘bank’ the virtual tours, using them throughout the year to maximise their impact.”

Robert added: “While we’d love to let our learners visit employer sites, we believe we can increase the number of pupils who experience our local manufacturing sector within a structured, covid-secure classroom setting.”

While the Covid 19 pandemic demanded a rethink around the 2020 event logistics, manufacturers including Bradford’s TF Automation – which has offered site visits and tours since Bradford Manufacturing Weeks was launched in 2018 - are committed to ensuring the district’s pupils don’t miss out.

TF Automation Marketing Manager Karen Pedersen said: “We wanted to take part in Bradford Manufacturing Weeks again and “virtually” open our doors to local schools and students. By partnering with The Working Academy at The University of Bradford, we’ve created a video of our site tour and presentation. We’ll also send out packs of samples and materials to schools to reference during the presentation.”

She added: “It has been an interesting challenge to create a video of our site visit while still trying to make it engaging and interactive. Last year we tripled our site visit numbers from the first year and really wanted to ensure we could continue to support schools we had engaged with – and those new to the experience. It’s so important to make students aware of manufacturing and engineering career opportunities in their local community and it’s wonderful to see so many local businesses still willing to take part considering the difficulties this year has brought for everyone.”

Bradford Manufacturing Weeks 2020 starts on Monday 5 October with an invite-only online event including a virtual tour from launch hosts, Steeton-based manufacturer Acorn Stairlifts, an address from University of Bradford Vice Principal Shirley Congdon, an introduction to pupils new to the initiative from Beckfoot Upper Heaton school and from last year’s pupil participants.

The timetable from 5 – 16 October includes factory tours from manufacturers including Ex-pressed Steel Panels, Solenis, Kemira Chemicals, Produmax, Thorite, Melrose Textiles, Gesipa, TF Automation and Borg Warner alongside the panel Q&A “Manufacturers Live” on Thursday 8 October and Apprentices Live on Tuesday 13 October.

Nick Garthwaite added: “Now, more than ever, our district’s young people need all the support we can give them in terms of understanding the opportunities for employment right here on their doorstep as well as our help in getting them emotionally and practically ready for work. In partnership with our manufacturers, our sponsors and partners, we’re looking forward to delivering fantastic, accessible, engaging and informative events that every local secondary school can get involved in.”

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