Never Give In!

20th December 2014

I read recently that one of the very last public speeches given by Winston Churchill was to a group of students at a London school. Apparently by this time he was drinking a quart of whisky daily and his speech was somewhat slower than usual. When asked by a student what was the most important lesson he had learned in life, he replied without hesitation “Never give in, Never, Never, Never!”

For me those three words sum up perfectly the lifetime’s work and achievements of one of the greatest war strategists of his time.

Where is this going, and what’s it got to do with engineering and manufacturing in the UK you might ask? The other day I attended an Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) event in London – “Mind the Gap”. The focus was on how we close the gap between the supply and demand of engineers by attracting more young people into our profession.

It was a most enjoyable event, with some inspiring speakers and questions from the floor, together with an opportunity to network with other Fellows.

What struck me in the Networking conversations was that people seemed to polarise into one of two camps: one I would call the “we will never fix this, it never changes” outlook; and the other an “it’s getting better, we must press on” box!

We would all agree that it may be better to have the words “Engineer” as a protected term, better to have a more balanced economy sooner, better if we could achieve (pro rata) the number of engineers graduating in India and China, better to have more money from government to support engineering and science in schools – the list goes on! That said, I would not agree that focussing on and talking too much about challenges over opportunities and achievements, is a positive thing to do.

I believe that the future for manufacturing and engineering in the UK is bright, really bright. As a nation we have a proud history of doing what is needed, sometimes just in time, but we get the job done!

Yes we need more and more young people to be aware of and be inspired by the opportunities on offer, and yes it’s not easy, but we must never give in, Never.

Leadership has an important role to play and my views on this are best captured in my foreword to a Manufacturing Leadership Survey 2014. Harvey Nash undertook this work, in association with CEME, and it was designed to stir conversation - which it did!

I hear much said about the young generation and their changing outlooks on careers and work. I welcome this, it’s called evolution! However some things don’t change.

One of them is that, given the choice, most people would prefer to spend time with an optimist rather than a pessimist!  

Bill Williams

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