Top three barriers to women in manufacturing

By Laurence Gibbons contact

- Last updated on GMT

There are three barriers preventing women in manufacturing
There are three barriers preventing women in manufacturing

Related tags: Vocational education, Cce

A lack of knowledge about food industry careers, misconceptions about manufacturing and a dip in apprenticeships are the three barriers blocking women from starting careers in the food and drink manufacturing sector.

That’s the assessment of Coca-Cola Enterprises’s (CCE’s) Wakefield production manager Kerry Morgan-Smith, who despite this, said the sector offered plenty of opportunities for women to work in the industry.

A lack of understanding around the different types of careers available and the entry requirements was stopping women entering science, technology, engineering and mathematic (STEM) careers, she claimed.

Fewer apprenticeships also restricted opportunities, she added.

“It also seems that there’s been a dip in the number of apprenticeships available across industry which is a shame as I believe it’s an ideal stepping stone for young people to experience and learn more about the career opportunities,” ​she said.

“There’s a misconception that a majority of manufacturing jobs are based overseas but a vast percentage are now returning to the UK because people want to rely on local manufacturers.”

Rewarding place to work

Balancing a family life and studying and improving at work was also a challenge for women in the industry, she claimed.

Morgan-Smith, who aged 18, joined CCE as an apprentice in 1998, said despite an an old fashioned view towards manufacturing in general society it was a very rewarding place to work.

“CCE’s Wakefield site was 25 years old last year and we make 97% of our products in Great Britain for the market here,”​ she claimed.

Kerry's career to date

  • 1998: Joined CCE as an apprentice at its Wakefield site
  • Studied a Higher National Certificate and National Vocational Qualification alongside CCE role
  • Studied for a Higher National Diploma
  • Worked as a technician in CCE’s syrup room for 10 years
  • Team leader at the Wakefield site’s largest polyethylene terephthalate line (18 months)
  • Planning and labour team leader (18 months)
  • Began a degree course with Open University in Business Management
  • Corrective team leader/ introduced £13M production line (8 months)
  • Production manager for past four months

“It’s now almost fully automated, work is a pleasure and it’s all about improvement. I therefore firmly believe that the best way to change the opinions of younger generations and attract them to the sector, is to give them the opportunity to see the industry in action.”

She said the industry should make women aware of their options within STEM industries.

Key to attracting females

Kerry Morgan Smith

Career advice in schools being more tuned to opportunities in the ‘real world’ was also key to attracting young females.

“It’s therefore about ensuring careers advisors are fully equipped with the right information and detail on the range of careers on offer within the industry,”​ she said.

“Here, business has a key role to play in communicating this and demonstrating that STEM careers are no longer solely for the male world.”

She praised on-site educational centres – such as CCE’s at Wakefield – for offering young people a window into the industry.

Meanwhile, Nestlé boss Fiona Kendrick claimed there was no glass ceiling preventing women​ rising to the top of food and drink businesses.

Morgan-Smith said there were opportunities within the rewarding manufacturing sector

Related topics: Drinks, People & Skills

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