Express & Star

Engineering skills conference

Engineering and manufacturing leaders from across the West Midlands will be attending the inaugural Next Gen Makers Engineering Skills Conference at The Black Country and Marches Institute of Technology in Dudley on Thursday, November 2.


It is being run with strategic business partner MSC Industrial Supply and will see leaders from across the region explore how to tackle the long-standing skills crisis currently posing a significant business challenge for engineering and manufacturing companies throughout the Midlands.

It follows recent research from MSC which revealed that engineering talent remains a major operational challenge for the sub-contract manufacturers, with 80 per cent of those surveyed currently recruiting for at least one machine operator and only a third (34 per cent) feeling they have sufficient in-house technical support.

The conference is being supported by patron sponsors including the Black Country and Marches Institute of Technology, BMet College, Dudley College, Greater Birmingham and Solihull Institute of Technology, Solihull College and University Centre, Make UK and the West Midlands Apprenticeship Ambassador Network.

Ryan Ball of The Design and Technology Association will be discussing the importance of design and technology not being lost from the school curriculum. He will be joined by James Sopwith, group strategic account director at Systems adi Group who will share the success of its pioneering pre-apprenticeship scheme and Dr Fiona Aldridge, head of intelligence and insight at West Midlands Combined Authority, who will update on the regional skills agenda for the sector.

Keynote speakers from leading technical education institutions from across the West Midlands will update on the changing technical education landscape and the variety of support now available to help engineering firms bridge their skills gaps.

Next Gen Makers, which was founded in 2018, has established a group of more than 50 engineering and manufacturing firms as part of its engineering apprenticeships: best practice programme. It enables those companies to share best practice regarding how to run successful apprenticeship schemes, whilst benchmarking their individual approaches to identify areas for improvement.

Adam Tipper, managing director of Next Gen Makers, said: “The skills crisis has long proven to be a major thorn in the side of manufacturing productivity. While traditional approaches to talent development and retention may have served companies well in the past, many traditional schemes are not truly fit for purpose when tackling the productivity challenges facing manufacturers today.

“The Midlands is very much the heartland of manufacturing in the UK, so it made perfect sense to host our inaugural Skills Conference here. We’re really excited to welcome engineering and manufacturing experts from across the West Midlands to our skills conference in November. Through our network, we’ve been able to help companies to develop their apprenticeship and talent development schemes through shared best practice insights and we hope to share this knowledge with an even broader audience in November.”

Registrations close on October 30 at

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