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National Manufacturing Day: promoting diversity for sustainable success in manufacturing

Vanessa Smith, Operations Director, Wakefield

Vanessa Smith, Operations Director, Wakefield | Coca-Cola Europacific Partners

4 min read Partner content

Wakefield Operations Director, Vanessa Smith, writes on the work being undertaken to promote diversity at CCEP's manufacturing sites.

For those looking in from the outside, there may be a perception that the manufacturing sector is heavy-duty and physically demanding. But the reality is that today, there are a wide range of modern manufacturing roles, with many grounded in innovation, problem solving and teamwork.

And while women represent almost half of the labour force in the UK, they account for only 26% of all workers in the manufacturing sector1.

Given the UK remains the ninth largest manufacturing nation in the world, and has an annual output of £183billion2, there is a great opportunity to encourage women and others who might not have previously considered a career in manufacturing to do so.

More and more businesses are recognising that a diversity of perspectives, ideas and experiences is vital in driving innovation and long-term success. But there is a lot more businesses need to be doing to ensure women and people from all backgrounds consider the industry as an opportunity to shape a rewarding career.

Creating potential for future recruits

The recruitment process plays a huge role in shaping this. As the industry and society continues to evolve, the way we bring people into the business needs to adapt as well to reflect these changes.

At Coca-Cola Europacific Partners (CCEP), we believe it’s important to focus on what an individual can contribute based on their skills and attitudes. Our focus is to hire people based on their potential and not solely on their academic achievements. We can help fill in the rest with on-the job training and mentoring.

We’re also anonymising CVs from the screening process, to remove any unconscious biases, and we can share interview questions for neurodiverse people in advance, so that they can prepare and are not at a disadvantage on the day of their interview.

The goal is to retain people and allow them to have a career that works alongside their own commitments and responsibilities. We’re also offering more flexible working options to better suit a range of lifestyles to support this mission.

Promoting new opportunities

CCEP is one of the world’s leading soft drinks producers and our site in Wakefield is the largest plant in the UK and the biggest soft drink plant in Europe. With a growing workforce of over 500 colleagues, the site has seen many exciting developments and investments over the years and can currently produce an impressive 420,000 cans and 116,000 bottles per hour.

But if we want to stay ahead, we know that encouraging different skillsets and insights across our entire business is invaluable.

Manufacturing is becoming a more inclusive place thanks to the shift towards flexible working, progression in automotive, and a growing focus on collaboration, testing and learning. But not everyone is aware of these benefits, so it’s up to businesses like us to paint more of an accurate picture of the industry and showcase what it has to offer for new recruits.

We’re putting a lot of effort into promoting the breadth of opportunities available and opening multiple vacancies at Wakefield and elsewhere for those who might not have previous experience working in manufacturing.

Our apprenticeship programme has also evolved over recent years, targeting all ages and skill levels to open up pathways for those looking to step into the world of work, or change career direction.

Efforts off-site

While what we do on-site for employees and recruits is important, businesses also need to think about what they’re doing in the wider community to help more consider a career in manufacturing.

It’s why we’re getting behind social enterprise Community Shop, which sells surplus goods and household products from major retailers at deeply discounted prices. We’re helping Community Shop in its efforts to support those at risk of food poverty by offering free training courses ranging from cookery clubs to interview skills and business programmes.

We have also joined forces with a range of organisations to reach groups of people who have traditionally faced barriers in trying to get into good jobs. We’re working with Whizz Kidz, a charity that supports young wheelchair users, and have a long-standing relationship with leading youth charity UK Youth, both of whom are doing incredible work in this space.

It’s great to see the progress made in the industry so far, but there’s still work to be done to create an industry where more people can thrive. In the years ahead, I hope to have the opportunity to work alongside more people and partners to understand the role our business can play in creating a more diverse workforce.

If you’re interested in finding about more about a role at CCEP’s manufacturing sites, find out more here.


1. https://www.ciip.group.cam.ac.uk/news/women-manufacturing-initiative-/#:~:text=Although%20women%20represent%20almost%20half,different%20occupations%20and%20economic%20activities 

2. https://www.makeuk.org/insights/publications/uk-manufacturing-the-facts--2022#/ 

 

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