Attracting manufacturing talent is tough. There’s a huge amount of competition and the available ‘pool’ is seemingly shrinking. Manufacturing and Engineering businesses in the UK need to work harder than ever to attract, develop and retain this talent if they are going to remain competitive.

So where do you start? Well, apprenticeship, placement and graduate schemes are well regarded as effective ways of ‘growing your own’ talent so if you haven’t already developed such schemes, you might want to consider doing so.

But what if you already have a scheme in place? What if you just need a helping hand in promoting the benefits to an audience that really wants to listen? 

Welcome to What Career Live!

Having attended various electronics/manufacturing/engineering shows over the years I already had an image in my head of what I would see as I walked through the glass doors of Olympia London last Friday. I pictured brightly coloured carpets representing different 'zones', speaker sessions and exhibition stands filled with branded goodies and smiling staff, desperate for someone to stop by and have a chat.

I was right. Apart from one thing. The staff were not desperate for visitors - they were overrun with them!

Everywhere I looked there were large groups of excitable students hungry to talk to someone about their future. There was a genuine interest in learning more and the students were not afraid to challenge stand staff with questions or take part in the quizzes and games on offer.

It was a pleasure to see so many engaged students under one roof. It was also great to see an exhibition so busy, particularly as this was the first What Career Live event at the Olympia in London.

Although the show is not specifically aimed at the Engineering or Manufacturing sector there were a number of companies offering apprenticeships and training schemes including Rolls Royce, Colas Rail, DSTL, Network Rail and Laing O'Rourke.

In addition, the show included a dedicated STEM challenge area aimed at getting students ‘hands-on’ throughout the day. As I walked past I witnessed large groups of girls competing to build bridges out of paper rods to span a certain distance.

Finally, the show boasted dedicated career and parent theatres with speaker sessions running throughout the day along with apprenticeship advice and CV writing support. And for those students looking for a more ‘creative’ role in life, Buskers Corner proved hugely popular with some amazing talent coming out of the passing crowd to take part in live singing sessions.

The next What Career Live event is being held in March 2018 at the NEC Birmingham. So, if you didn’t manage to visit London, there’s still plenty of time to register as a visitor and have a walk around or book a stand and promote your own schemes.

Having taken the time to walk the show last week I’m genuinely excited about meeting talented, enthusiastic, hungry individuals keen to develop within engineering and manufacturing next year when we exhibit.

Yes, there’s still a huge skills gap, but it’s down to us to fill it, and that’s only going to happen if we start getting out in front of young people and telling them all about the opportunities that exist in this thing we call the ‘real’ world.