Is UK Manufacturing a Youth Repellent? An Interview with Mark Neal

Is UK Manufacturing a Youth Repellent? An Interview with Mark Neal

According to industry research, just 6% of UK 16 – 23 years olds will consider a career in manufacturing.

What is the key to manufacturing careers, once again, finding favour among the UK’s younger generation?


Manufacturing Discredited as a Career

Mark Neal, Managing Director at Armagard, explains, “Frankly, the education system, parents and the manufacturing industry itself have played their part in dissuading today’s youth from pursuing a career in UK manufacturing, and manufacturing worldwide for that matter.”

“Parents in particular have given the impression that manufacturing is dirty, dangerous and unfulfilling, describing the industry as it was 100 years ago – backbreaking manual work. Meanwhile, the UK education system tends to champion other career types ahead of manufacturing.”


Is Manufacturing’s Image Improving?

“Let’s dispel one manufacturing myth, immediately…the industry no longer lives under the label of dirty, dangerous and unfulfilling.”

Tom Lane of the Manufacturing Technologies Association echoes Mark’s comments, saying that the image of manufacturing is undergoing significant, positive change.


“The manufacturing floor is cleaner, safer and a much more gratifying place to be and the days of backbreaking, monotonous manufacturing practices carried out in dirty, dingy environments are virtually obsolete”

Mark Neal, Armagard


Manufacturing has moved into a new era, making the most of digital technologies to improve processes and boost productivity. The manufacturing floor has certainly seen a surge in automation.

“Manufacturing has mostly shed its persona of ‘getting your hands dirty.’ Instead, new innovations are birthed using computerised control systems. The number of computer-based manufacturing processes sum up the extent to which computers have infiltrated the manufacturing floor.”

Mark refers to processes such as:

  • CAD (Computer-Aided Design)
  • CAE (Computer-Aided Engineering)
  • CAM (Computer-Aided Manufacturing)
  • CAPP (Computer-Aided Process Planning)
  • CAQ (Computer-Aided Quality Assurance)


The digitalisation and computerisation of Britain’s manufacturing floors has made a career in the industry more appealing to today’s digital generation.

Alongside the automation of manufacturing processes, education systems have rediscovered the value of UK manufacturing to the world’s economy, with educational authorities placing more emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects in schools, colleges and universities.


Digital Manufacturing Inspires the Next Generation

With manufacturing cleaning up its act and education systems pushing STEM subjects like never before, digital manufacturing appears to be reviving youth interest in UK manufacturing.

“Manufacturing has lost its outdated image. The industry’s continuous transition from manual to digital has brought with it a renaissance in terms of the technology used to facilitate manufacturing in the modern era.”

“With new tech comes the need for a whole new skillset on the shop floor to oversee the computerised systems that are taking the manufacturing industry into its next era.”


“The use of new technologies to facilitate manufacturing processes has created far more career advancement opportunities and these technologies require a higher degree of knowledge possessed by school leavers, college and university graduates”

Mark Neal, Armagard


“An influx of youth personnel taking up roles in CNC programming, robotics and other manufacturing fields is the evidence that a career in UK manufacturing is once again attractive to Britain’s youth.”

Made in Britain carries a lot of weight around the world,” concludes Mark.  “The next generation must continue to fly the flag for UK manufacturing.”

Daniel Waldron

Daniel Waldron is a content marketing specialist with 15 years+ experience, writing frequently on manufacturing news, issues and insights. He is Head of Content for design and manufacturing firm, Armagard, as well as writing for Manufacturing Matters Magazine, international marketing and export sales platform, Export Worldwide and NTP time server manufacturer, Galleon Systems.