Skills and strategy delays worrying most manufacturers

A shortage of skilled workers and delays in implementing the government's industrial strategy are causing major headaches for UK manufacturers, according to a new survey.

A shortage of skilled workers and delays in implementing the government's industrial strategy are causing major headaches for UK manufacturers. Photo: iStock/monkeybusinessimages
Research by business advisory firm BDO found that 74 per cent of the 200 firms surveyed did not think enough progress had been made on the industrial strategy, 18 months after it was announced. Many manufacturers also felt that government claims of record levels of state investment in R&D, infrastructure and technical education had not yet had a significant impact on their businesses. The effects of Brexit had also resulted in substantial delays to the progress of business legislation through parliament, said BDO.Tom Lawton, head of manufacturing at BDO, added, “The UK’s manufacturing industry is being hit twice over by the effects of Brexit. Order books are being affected by uncertainty over when and how the UK will leave the EU, and the government is being severely distracted from delivering its industrial strategy. The new leadership contest is diverting attention even further away from what UK manufacturing needs right here, right now.”

Lack of faith in government by manufacturers

Only 21 per cent of manufacturers felt government action was sufficient to solve the major problems caused by the existing skills gap – a situation only likely to get worse when the freedom of movement for EU27 workers ends when the UK leaves the bloc.Mr Lawton said the government should be looking to expand its apprenticeships scheme to cover not just young people entering the manufacturing workforce, but also the retraining of experienced manufacturing workers.

Damaging claims about regional favouritism

Manufacturers were also concerned about the apparent focus by the government on London and South East England – a concern that reflects the findings of the parliamentary business, energy and industrial strategy committee, which criticised the industrial strategy's concentration on southern England.While 52 per cent of manufacturers surveyed in London and the South East believed sufficient progress had been made on the strategy since its launch, only 27 per cent in the West Midlands and 19 per cent in the North West agreed.“For the Government to be accused of focusing on London and the South East at the expense of the rest of the country is nothing new, but it is particularly damaging to the manufacturing industry," said Mr Lawton. “The vast majority of the UK’s manufacturing takes place far from Westminster and the government must invest in the infrastructure that will help manufacturers in other parts of the UK grow and create employment.”Subscribe to Relocate Extra, our monthly newsletter, to get all the latest international assignments and global mobility news.
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