Bradford’s female manufacturing leaders are headlining a panel event to inspire school pupils as part of Bradford Manufacturing Weeks 2021.

The district’s female manufacturing role models from some of Bradford’s most established blue chip manufacturers, are taking questions from Bradford Girls’ Grammar School pupils during the fortnight of in person and online manufacturing events which runs from Monday 4 October to this Thursday (15 October).

The women, who have a collective 150 years’ manufacturing experience, lead and manage Bradford and Keighley-based international businesses in the chemical, component, aerospace, textile products and metallurgical laboratory sectors.

Led by West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, Bradford Manufacturing Weeks introduces students to a career in manufacturing through Q&A panels, work placements, manufacturer tours, work experience and life skills events. Since 2018, the initiative has created more than 12,000 manufacturing experiences for Bradford pupils aged 14-18.

The Women in Manufacturing panel at Bradford Girls’ Grammar School on Thursday 14 October will be led by Vicky Wainwright, Bradford Chamber of Commerce President and Managing Director of accountancy firm and Bradford Manufacturing Weeks sponsor, Naylor Wintersgill.

Taking questions from the all-female student audience are Debbie Mellor, Managing Director of Keighley Laboratories, Diana Scholefield, Managing Director of Gesipa, Katie Owen, Supply Chain Manager from Produmax, Fran Salisbury Director of Canvasman, Lou Franklin, Managing Director of Mansfield Pollard, Kate Fisher Production Manager from Solenis, and Stacey King, Laboratory Manager at Christeyns UK.

Fran Salisbury, who established Baildon-based, award-winning bespoke fabric and outdoor upholstery manufacturer, Canvasman with her husband Chris in 1996, said: “I have worked in every aspect of our business from design and sewing through to developing our business plans and strategies. Even though women make up half of the workforce, they still remain highly underrepresented in the manufacturing sector, especially at managerial levels.”

She added: “Women bring to the sector, not only hardworking attitudes but creativity, critical thinking, efficiency and invention. They are untapped talent, which manufacturing needs to attract in order to remain competitive. My hope is that Bradford Manufacturing Weeks, along with the schools and business taking part, can help inspire and encourage young women to look at the potential of pursuing a fulfilling and rewarding career in manufacturing.”

Delivered in partnership with Bradford-based school and career specialists The Opportunity Centre and with primary sponsorship from Barclays and additional sponsorship from E3 Recruitment, Naylor Wintersgill, LCF Law and Bradford Council, more than 30 manufacturers and 45 secondary schools have registered for this year’s two-week initiative.

Anita Thorpe, Curriculum Leader for Personal Development at Bradford Girls’ Grammar School, said: "An event such as this not only broadens horizons in relation to the variety of rewarding job opportunities available for our students, it also supports our ambition to develop women leaders of the future, providing role models to aspire to and gain confidence from."

Nick Garthwaite, Chair of the Bradford Manufacturing Weeks steering group and Director of Bradford-based international chemicals and detergents manufacturer Christeyns, said that every year Bradford Manufacturing Weeks evolves to become more dynamic and more relevant to the young people it is aimed at.

He added: “Our range of activities, alongside this year’s competition to create an innovative solution for waste recycling in schools and our driver awareness event in partnership with West Yorkshire Fire & Rescue and West Yorkshire Police, we believe we are delivering another educational, inspirational and invaluable careers event.”