The new regional director for the EEF has told of her determination to help the manufacturers’ group achieve their key priorities.
Liz Mayes begins her role today, having arrived at the organisation from the CBI, in a move which allows the organisation to ramp up support in the region by splitting a far wider North East, Yorkshire and Humber directorship into two.
Mrs Mayes’ appointment means present director Andy Tuscher will now focus his attention on Yorkshire and Humber. Mrs Mayes’ appointment comes at a crucial time for UK manufacturing with the sector going from strength to strength.
The North East accounts for 5% of total UK manufacturing with £6.4bn of manufacturing output coming from the region, while employing just under 125,000 people in the North East.
Yet Mrs Mayes, a graduate of both Durham and Newcastle Universities, is well aware of challenges ahead of her, including Britain’s future in Europe, energy and pricing, the skills shortage and the need to go into schools to encourage more youngsters – especially girls – into STEM subjects.
She said: “My appointment demonstrates the importance EEF places on the region as the homeland of British manufacturing and its commitment to seeing it grow. I’m being brought in to strengthen the support we are able to give and to ensure the North East can punch above its weight in manufacturing growth and output.
“I’ve always been passionate about manufacturing and there’s no doubt that North East manufacturers have great flexibility, innovation and ambition. We are home to some of the most dynamic manufacturers in the world.
“And they are resilient, the manufacturers we have now have seen it all – from deindustrialisation in the 1980s through to the credit crunch in more recent years – they have weathered the storm and are stronger for it.
“Coupled with an emerging group of new, smaller manufacturers, this puts the North East manufacturing sector in a pretty strong position.”
The biggest challenge facing the sector, she believe is the current skills shortage.
Demonstrating the modern face of manufacturing to youngsters, she believes, is key to encourage them into careers within the industry.
“Manufacturers’ growth and ability to invest and expand hinge on the ready supply of skilled workers. Unfortunately they are not getting the quantity or quality they need,” she said.
“I’m keen to support companies in the region to make a difference to the pool of talent they have access to.
“By 2020 manufacturers will need almost a million replacement workers. EEF has been proactive in establishing a skills group in the North East to address the challenges local firms face.
“One of my key priorities will be to get a better understanding of this work and to see how we can build on that moving forward.
“I’m also particularly passionate that we work to encourage more girls to choose STEM subjects at school and that this feeds through into their careers.
“There’s no doubt there are barriers to be broken down but I know there’s a willingness from both the business and academic communities to address this imbalance.
“We need to think more carefully about how we sell the benefits of a career in science and engineering to the region’s young people and how we respond to what they tell us about their needs and aspirations for their future careers.
“When you get to know what modern manufacturing looks like it’s hard not to become enthusiastic about the possibilities that it offers for young people, male and female, and for our regional economic growth.
She added: “I’m keen to get feedback as to what more we can do to promote a more positive image of 21st century manufacturing. This is all vitally important to ensure a good skills pipeline for the future.”