Ulverston company overcomes the odds to strike gold at National Manufacturing Awards

28th February 2024

Oxley Group, a world leading manufacturer and designer of high specification LED lighting and electronics for the defence industry, has been recognised for its work developing the next generation of manufacturers after overcoming significant hurdles along the way.

The firm, based in Ulverston since 1942, took home the top prize in the Developing Future Talent category at Make UK’s prestigious National Manufacturing Awards, held in London, after impressing judges with their determined approach to navigating the area’s difficult skills landscape.

The firm’s achievements are impressive when considering that they have been operating against the backdrop of Cumbria’s brain drain of working age people, with 2021 Census data revealing 15,000 fewer 16-64 year olds in the county than a decade prior.[1]

And in a real David versus Goliath situation, Oxley has found itself in competition for the remaining local talent with multi-national defence giant BAE Systems, whose submarine site in Barrow-in-Furness (just a 20 minute drive away) is currently upscaling with a requirement to recruit over 5,000 people in the coming years.[2]

Despite facing these challenges, and the industry-wide difficulties in recruiting and retaining employees, the company remains committed to the local area and the manufacturing sector, and has proven this with the steps it has taken.

The firm’s ‘Grow Our Own’ programme sets out an ambitious 10 pillar plan involving a wide range of outreach initiatives, in collaboration with local schools, colleges, universities, careers advisers, BAE Systems and other SMEs in the area, to boost STEM interest among young people.

Examples of this work include a recently launched apprenticeship programme and graduate scheme, employability workshops with local schools covering skills such as CV writing and interviews, as well as an entrepreneurship programme for year 5 students.

The firm currently has 14 apprentices on its books and is recruiting for more. It also prides itself on being an equal employer having achieved a 48% female workforce, exceeding its own target of 30%.

Jayne Moorby, Head of Marketing, Oxley Group

"We’re delighted to have been recognised for this prestigious award, it’s a credit to all of the team for the work they do developing young people within the business and through outreach work in the community.

"At Oxley we believe in collaboration and our success in developing future talent has been achieved through working in partnership, we also believe in inclusive growth and enabling every young person to have a access to the high skilled and high value roles available in manufacturing.

"Oxley has been in Cumbria for over 80 years, by investing in developing future talent we will be thriving here in another 80 years.”

Stephen Phipson CBE, Chief Executive of Make UK, said:

"These awards are a testament to the dynamic companies and individuals working within engineering and manufacturing. The sector remains at the heart of creating wealth across the UK and there will be a bright future for companies and individuals that make the most of their talent.”

About the awards

The National Manufacturing Awards, sponsored by HSBC Commercial Banking and organised by Make UK, the manufacturers’ organisation, were held at St Paul’s Cathedral in London on January 25th to recognise the achievements of companies from across the UK, following the regional award ceremonies held in Autumn of last year.

About Make UK

Make UK, The Manufacturers’ Organisation, is the representative voice of UK manufacturing, with offices in London, Brussels, every English region and Wales.

Collectively we represent 20,000 companies of all sizes, from start-ups to multinationals, across engineering, manufacturing, technology and the wider industrial sector. We directly represent over 5,000 businesses who are members of Make UK. Everything we do – from providing essential business support and training to championing manufacturing industry in the UK and the EU – is designed to help British manufacturers compete, innovate and grow.

From HR and employment law, health and safety to environmental and productivity improvement, our advice, expertise and influence enables businesses to remain safe, compliant and future-focused.