Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 11.43.10NORTH EAST business leaders have gathered together in a bid to highlight the pressing issues facing manufacturing and engineering SMEs at a recent Roundtable event.

Hosted by accountancy firm Tait Walker, the annual Manufacturing Roundtable, which is now in its third year, provided a platform for some of the region’s sector ambassadors to take centre stage on issues such as gender inequality and the ongoing skills crisis within the industry.

Chairman of Ford Aerospace and champion for North East manufacturing, Geoff Ford, was joined by Ebac’s Pamela Petty and representatives from Liebherr UK, Zenith People and the Advanced Manufacturing Forum alongside Durham’s Framwellgate School, the National Careers Service, the NECC and North East Local Enterprise Partnership.

The event opened with the results of the recent Tait Walker MHA Survey*, which provided a national benchmark of how manufacturers are performing UK-wide against the North East’s perceptions amongst the region’s SMEs.

Whilst the overall UK trend showed a drop in optimism for growth over the next 12 months, attendees gave a more positive outlook with many agreeing that, whilst the industry still faces its fair share of challenges, things are steadily progressing in the North East.

The topic of gender inequality in manufacturing was met with mixed reactions with the majority of attendees agreeing recruitment should be based on attitude and ability, regardless of gender and that the industry as a whole has a responsibility for attracting both sexes into the sector.

Innovative methods of staff retention were also discussed, with flexible working hours and the Better Health at Work scheme coming out on top as some of the most effective ways of ensuring a happier and healthier workforce.

Andrew Moorby, managing partner at Tait Walker, said: “Our Manufacturing Roundtable is now an annual event and one which is proving increasingly popular for those within the sector to debate key issues. The group are passionate about manufacturing and the region and are forming an unofficial, yet unified voice. Tait Walker continues to feel hugely privileged to be able to drive an event such as this and we’re committed to turning the session into positive actions wherever we can.”

As part of the roundtable agenda, Ford Aerospace chairman Geoff Ford spoke at length around a number of key issues.

Geoff said: “I’m delighted by Tait Walker’s ongoing support of North East manufacturing. As ever, the event has provided an interesting discussion and, whilst there were some clashes of opinion at times, it’s great to get so many views from different companies and bodies involved with a sector which I believe to be the backbone of the region’s identity.

“What was most apparent from the morning’s discussion was the comradery and willingness for everyone to support one another and work collaboratively wherever possible. As business leaders we have a responsibility to communicate more with one another so I’m hopeful for change in the not too distant future.”

Andrew Moorby added: “Whilst the key findings of the event were ones of ongoing concern for the region’s manufacturing sector, which are going nowhere fast, it was really encouraging to see such a great turn out of both new and familiar faces all of whom are very keen to see the North East succeed as a market competitor.”