Friday, 17 October 2014

We continue to make great things in Chesterfield

I read recently that the Bristol-based children’s suitcase maker Trunki has reported a pre-tax loss of £1.5m for 2013 following competition from Chinese rivals. This is really sad news but the story couldn’t be more different in our town.

The manufacturing sector here is thriving and companies believe there to be little or no threat from China for two key reasons – poor quality, unreliable output and increased domestic demand for goods amongst the Chinese population.

Chesterfield’s Enterprise Zone at Markham Vale plays an important role in helping Sheffield City Region (SCR) achieve its vision of developing a Modern Manufacturing and Technology Growth Area.

As well as attracting manufacturing and engineering companies to invest here and create jobs, it is equally important to ensure there is a ready workforce. Events like Made in Chesterfield (10 – 14 November) help secure the future of the sector and get more youngsters turned onto a career in manufacturing, raising awareness of the employment opportunities within it as well as the number of varied and exciting roles.

And this is exactly what we have achieved with the Chesterfield Food and Drink Awards. Chesterfield College students take an active and hands on role at the awards evening. After the success of last year’s awards evening at the College – all superbly catered and served by the students, it came as no surprise that tickets for the 2014 awards sold out weeks before the event – and we increased numbers by 50%.

Like the Food and Drink Awards, Made in Chesterfield brings together employers and students. Companies have embraced the week, delivering hands on activities and site visits for so many youngsters.

I am confident that Made in Chesterfield will change many perceptions about the manufacturing sector, particularly the view that it’s dirty and grimy. Just walk into MSE Hiller’s workshop and your opinion will change instantly.

Embodying Made in Chesterfield is the new sculpture at the Coach Station. The sculpture is the work of Fanke Sissons’ apprentices and students from Parkside School. It is truly magnificent. Look closely and you will see that it encapsulates what young people feel is representative of Chesterfield today; Nature, Manufacturing, and Community.

I encourage you to visit the coach station and view this work of art. Not only will it enhanced yet another major gateway to the town, but it represents a true partnership between education and the manufacturing and engineering sectors – one which I hope will continue to provide employment opportunities for many generations to come.

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