Meet Robyn: Challenging stereotypes in manufacturing

Every now and then we like to cast the spotlight on one of our employees and this quarter we meet Exalto’s newest recruit, full-time machinist and working mum, Robyn.  She talks to us about her passion for manufacturing, juggling motherhood and challenging the stereotype of an industry seen as male-dominated, dirty and unskilled…

“I’ve heard lots of women say manufacturing is unskilled, inflexible to family priorities and hard, labour-intensive work … to them I’d say I’m proof that this isn’t necessarily the case! I have a folder full of qualifications so am far from unskilled, the company allows me to work day shifts to accommodate my responsibilities at home and with the development and increase in CNC machinery, what was a labour-intensive field is now increasingly high-tech.

To those women who write off manufacturing as a career I’d say to think again… if it’s something you are interested in, give it a go… don’t let the stereotypes put you off, it’s an excellent career path in a skilled industry that really is suffering from a skills gap”

“The industry as a whole is moving forward at a rate of knots with the development of digital machinery” comments Exalto Business Manager Mark Chesher, “at Exalto we still use traditional manufacturing techniques on manual machines but are increasingly replacing whole operations with digital CNC machines which are much faster, efficient and very accurate… so the back-breaking and labour intensive stereotype of manufacturing work is being challenged, even in small businesses like our own”

Industry publication Industry Weekly cited both ‘machinist’ and ‘welder’ near the top of their hardest-to-fill jobs in their most recent salary survey, “we are facing an aging workforce in traditional engineering and manufacturing” continues Mark, “and although manufacturing today is being driven increasingly by technology rather than physical labour, the industry is still heavily male… we need to attract a new workforce that includes both women and the younger generation if we are to future-proof businesses like ours”

Mark hopes that having Robyn at Exalto will attract more females into our workplace “she is a great worker and has proven herself a real asset to the business already… precise and organised I’d love another 10 just like her! Having Robyn with us as an ambassador for women in manufacturing will, I hope, encourage other girls to consider a career in companies such as ours”

“I’ve never wanted to work behind a desk, I’ve always preferred hands-on work where I can actually be part of making something” says Robyn “at school I did a Young Apprenticeship with Rolls Royce after building and racing a 3-wheel bike, and I knew then that engineering was right for me…  and contrary to popular belief, to do my job it’s not about physical strength, it’s about a steady hand, patience, diligence, precision and being organised”

With the rapid advances in technology continually changing the way we operate and make our bearings at Exalto, it’s raised the bar for employee skillsets… “Our CNC machines are great – fast, accurate, efficient, but we need skilled operators to maximise the benefits they bring” comments Mark

“I’m looking forward to advancing my qualifications by increasing my working knowledge of our CNC machines and their operations” says Robyn who is always looking to improve and add to her own skills, most recently organising her own training in welding, another string to her bow “I’m always keen to learn new things and am up for any training that is available, this is my career and I want to develop and progress”

“Robyn’s enthusiasm, fresh ideas and determination to get the parts completed as quickly as possible has not only benefitted Exalto but our customers too” says Mark.

“The UK, like many countries, is suffering from a skills gap in our sector and therefore dispelling the myths long associated with careers in manufacturing is vital if we are going to attract women as well as young talent into companies such as ours, securing our future in the industry”.

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