Employers were urged to be more creative in their approaches to recruitment and retention at our EMConf event in Newcastle last week.

Education providers, SMEs and multinationals came together for the conference on April 26, to discuss the challenges businesses are facing in attracting staff, retaining talent and building skilled workforces.

EMConf was held at the Quorum Business Park headquarters of apprenticeships and training provider TDR Training.

Speakers from across the engineering and manufacturing sector, as well as employment specialists, shared their experiences at EMConf, and explored both short and long term solutions to addressing skills shortages.

Liam Hunt, Managing Director of Ambic Manufacturing, spoke about how his company is inspiring young people through engaging closely with primary schools and running initiatives such as its STEM Challenge competition, while Paul Lackenby, Head of Sales and Commercial at Altec Engineering, urged employers to help shape their training providers’ curriculums, citing his company’s involvement with Hartlepool College of Further Education as an example.

Shirley Spoors, Continuous Improvement Manager at Akzo Nobel, provided insight into building a diverse working environment and engaging with people with additional learning needs, and explained how an initiative with housing provider Bernicia is providing opportunities for people in Northumberland who have been in long-term unemployment.

Event held Friday 26th April, at TDR Training, Q1, Quorum Business Park, Newcastle upon Tyne NE12 8EX

In the conference’s retention-focused session, BTS Facades & Fabrications’ Business Development Manager (North), Ben Thompson, revealed how the company has increased employee retention through enhancing its company culture, and explained how the business has implemented a four-day week.

Diane Elgar, Head of Human Resources & Training at Vantec Europe Ltd, discussed the company’s methods of sustaining staff engagement and how it is empowering employees to work on ‘trail blazing’ projects.

There were also contributions from Lauren Bathan, Associate Director – HR Consultancy at Jackson Hogg, who stressed the importance of agile and dynamic succession planning, and Amy Sergison, Partner at Muckle LLP, who provided guidance on recruiting skilled migrant and overseas workers, and how to navigate the post-Brexit legal landscape.

Ailsa Anderson, Director of Development at EMN, said: “We have a very high level of engineering and manufacturing expertise in the North East and a reputation for innovation, but the region’s businesses are struggling with both skills and people gaps. However, as this conference demonstrated, by taking more inventive approaches and sharing experiences, our engineering and manufacturing community can take firm steps to address this.

“From inspiring young people through fun activities in schools to forging new partnerships with community organisations and taking fresh approaches to succession planning, our speakers provided a wealth of ideas and inspiration for delegates.”

David Land, Chairman of EMN, added: “The challenges of recruitment and retention are mentioned time and time again when we meet with EMN members, so we believed that it was vital to provide a platform where these issues could be addressed and businesses could tap into our network’s collective ‘hive mind’ for solutions. The event was a great success: it showed the strength of our community and its willingness to exchange advice, knowledge and opportunities.

“We’d like to thank everyone who contributed to EMConf and we’re looking forward to supporting members through further events throughout the rest of the year.”

The conference was sponsored by operational areas management solution provider SMS Technology and was supported by exhibitors including NBSL, Newcastle University, Tyne Coast College and New College Durham and NE STEM Hub.

EMConf is the sister event to EMCON, our annual engineering and manufacturing showcase. EMCON attracted more than 900 visitors and 120 exhibitors from North East England and beyond last year. 2024’s edition of EMCON will be held Rainton Arena in Houghton-le-Spring on September 12.