Sharing knowledge

Coventry and the Midlands: pioneering manufacturing growth and embracing change

January 14, 2024
8 minutes
Ferenc Boroczky
Founder and CEO of anet360

In the economic landscape of the UK, the Midlands emerges as a unique and dynamic player. Often hailed as the backbone of British industry, this region is where tradition and innovation converge, creating a robust powerhouse that not only drives local prosperity but also significantly fuels the nation's growth.

The Midlands stands as a testament to the diversity and strength of British manufacturing, boasting globally revered brands such as Jaguar Land Rover and Rolls Royce Power Engineering.. The manufacturing sector in the Midlands  is impressively diverse, covering everything from automobiles and pharmaceuticals to textiles and food production. This breadth is not merely a feature of the industrial landscape; it's a key driver of economic resilience.

In fact, 

21% of all UK manufacturing companies are based in the Midlands. This figure represents more than a fifth of the country's manufacturing capacity, concentrated in the heart of Britain. These businesses collectively employ 20% of the UK's manufacturing workforce and contribute an impressive £36 billion GVA per year.

These numbers are a clear testament to the Midlands' crucial role in the nation's industrial narrative.

During a recent visit to Coventry, the city's unique blend of historic charm and modern dynamism was strikingly evident. Known for its rich manufacturing history, Coventry today is a hub of innovation and experimentation. The city's landscape is an environment where creativity thrives, attracting a diverse mix of adventurers, thinkers, and creators. These individuals are drawn to Coventry's promise of opportunity and innovation.

Picture - Coventry - Free to use under the Unsplash License

The city is not just a physical hub but also an intellectual one, boasting world-class universities and research centers. This intellectual capital is a critical ingredient in both the city's and the region's manufacturing success.

The Midlands' manufacturing industry, like any thriving sector, faces challenges such as labor shortages and knowledge sharing gaps. The UK manufacturing sector is currently grappling with significant labor shortages, a challenge that has been exacerbated by a variety of factors including digitalization, Brexit, the Covid-19 pandemic, low unemployment, and wage inflation. 

According to Make UK's latest research, approximately 36% of vacancies in manufacturing are hard to fill because applicants lack the necessary skills, qualifications, or experience. This rate is notably higher than the average across all industries, which stands at about 24%.

The problem spans almost the entire workforce, affecting areas from leadership and management to production, order fulfillment, and general operations. Additionally, the sector is challenged by an aging workforce, with a significant number of employees either retiring early or planning to do so in the next 5 to 10 years. Many others are reducing their working hours or considering early retirement. The industry also faces an image problem, where many roles are perceived as low-skilled, low-paid, and involving repetitive tasks with heavy machinery, despite the reality of often exciting, high-tech career options available in manufacturing.

These issues impact the entire sector, necessitating a proactive approach. Encouraging individuals and organizations to step outside their comfort zones is vital for the Midlands to maintain its manufacturing prowess. This involves embracing new experiences and learning opportunities, finding ways to support people to get confident using technology. Companies can foster a culture of mentorship and collaboration, which is vital for solving immediate challenges and driving innovation.

To effectively encourage people and professionals to step outside their comfort zones, it's beneficial to start with setting small, achievable goals. This approach can involve encouraging individuals to take on new tasks at work or explore new hobbies, thereby gently nudging them beyond their usual routines. This strategy ensures that the steps taken are not overwhelming and can lead to a series of small victories, boosting confidence and the willingness to try more challenging tasks.

  • Creating a supportive environment is also crucial. In professional settings, cultivating a culture that values risk-taking and learning from both successes and failures can greatly assist in this endeavor. This might involve establishing mentorship programs, organizing team-building activities, or simply fostering open communication where individuals feel safe to express their ideas and concerns.
  • The practice of reflection is another important aspect. Regularly taking time to reflect on experiences, whether they're successful or not, helps individuals understand their reactions and how they might approach similar situations differently in the future. This process of introspection can provide valuable insights into personal growth and development
  • Providing access to training and development opportunities can also play a significant role. Participating in workshops, courses, or seminars that challenge individuals to acquire new skills or deepen existing ones offers a structured path to stepping out of one's comfort zone. These learning experiences can be tailored to suit different levels of comfort and expertise.
  • Introducing mindfulness and resilience training can help manage the stress and anxiety often associated with new challenges. Techniques like meditation, yoga, or resilience workshops can equip individuals with the tools to handle stress more effectively, making the process of stepping out of their comfort zones less daunting.

Finally, encouraging networking and collaboration exposes individuals to different ideas and ways of thinking. This can be achieved through cross-departmental projects, attending industry events, or even informal networking sessions. Such interactions can broaden one’s perspective and ignite creative thinking, ultimately contributing to personal and professional growth.

The Midlands, with its rich manufacturing tradition and forward-thinking approach, represents more than just a region; it's a microcosm of the future of manufacturing. The ability of this area to adapt, evolve, and tackle new challenges is crucial for its growth and serves as a model for the wider manufacturing sector

The story of the Midlands is one of resilience, innovation, and ambition, continuously written by its dedicated workforce. Their commitment to pushing boundaries and striving for excellence keeps the heartbeat of UK manufacturing strong. The Midlands isn't just about manufacturing products; it's about manufacturing a brighter future. It's a region where every small step outside one's comfort zone contributes to significant leaps in productivity and progress.

Whether you're a local, a visitor, or an observer, the Midlands' manufacturing landscape offers inspiration and a reminder of the achievements possible when tradition blends with innovation, transforming comfort zones from limitations into starting points for growth.

https://www.makeuk.org/insights/blogs/the-labour-shortage-challenge-for-uk-manufacturers, https://midlandsengine.org/sector/manufacturing/

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Ferenc Boroczky
Founder and CEO of anet360
With more than 15 years in design and technology focused on people, I've dedicated myself to growing a business that makes a real difference. I'm the Founder and CEO of Another Set of Eyes (anet), a company my wife and I built from scratch. We've come a long way without financial backing from investors, proving our resilience and innovation and developing a high-quality, yet user-friendly software solution. Our mission is to change how organizations gather and use important information, share insights, and train their teams.

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