UK industrial plan focuses on skills for 'industries of the future'

The UK government unveiled its industrial strategy for the post-Brexit era, promising a more interventionist role from Whitehall to support "major" investment in R&D to create high-skilled jobs.

UK industrial plan focuses on skills for \'industries of the future\'
Launching the 10-point strategy at the first Cabinet meeting she has held outside London, Prime Minister Theresa May said in Cheshire, "The modern industrial strategy will back Britain for the long term: creating the conditions where successful businesses can emerge and grow, and backing them to invest in the long-term future of our country."It will be underpinned by a new approach to government, not just stepping back but stepping up to a new, active role that backs business and ensures more people in all corners of the country share in the benefits of its success."She said strategies in areas such as broadband, transport and energy would be prioritised in a bid to "align central government infrastructure investment with local growth priorities".Mrs May, who also announced £556 million extra funding for the so-called 'northern powerhouse' project to boost the fortunes of regions outside SE England, proposed changing regulations to remove barriers to innovation, using trade and investment deals to increase exports, and helping to create new institutions to provide leadership, support innovation and boost skills.

Investment in STEM

Additionally the government plans to boost STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) skills, digital skills and numeracy, including extending specialist maths schools. Mrs May has already announced plans to invest £170 million to create prestigious institutes of technology to shake up technical education and boost skills in response to industry demand.The 10-point plan outlined in a Green Paper, which will now be subject to consultation before the government makes detailed proposals, focused on:
  1. Investing in science, research and innovation
  2. Developing skills
  3. Upgrading infrastructure
  4. Supporting business start-ups and growth
  5. Improving government procurement
  6. Encouraging trade and inward investment
  7. Delivering affordable energy and clean growth
  8. Cultivating world-leading sectors
  9. Driving growth across the whole country
  10. Creating the right institutions to bring together different sectors

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Building on the UK's strengths

Business Secretary Greg Clark said, "This is an important step in building a modern, dynamic industrial strategy that will improve living standards and drive economic growth across the whole country."A modern British industrial strategy must – build on the UK's strengths and extend excellence into the future; close the gap between the the UK's most productive companies, industries, places and people and the rest; and ensure we are one of the most competitive places in the world to start and grow a business."We are inviting businesses and workers to contribute to this vision to help us create a high-skilled economy where every place can meet its potential."Reacting to the Green Paper, Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), said, "A modern Industrial Strategy will be a landmark opportunity to build a successful, modern economy as the foundation for a prosperous, fairer and more inclusive society. "It must help fix the country’s productivity problems and remove the regional inequalities that have dogged our country for generations, having a positive impact on living standards, wages and the future opportunities of many people."The CBI has long-called for a new industrial strategy and it’s welcome to see the government creating an opportunity for all sectors to get involved. Our members across every region and nation of the UK will have a fundamental role to play to help shape the thinking and – most importantly – deliver the impact we all want to see."

Adjusting to a post-Brexit economy

Terry Scuoler, chief executive of EEF, the manufacturers' organisation, urged the government to work together with "clear leadership" from ministers to make the strategy a success. "This is an important first step towards creating a comprehensive, consistent and long-term industrial strategy that will help Britain adjust to a more globally-focused, post-Brexit economy," he said."Manufacturing has a key role to play and we look forward to working with the government on crystallising this into a strategic framework that will work and deliver for industry."The end result of this process must be an industrial strategy that lives up to the promise of driving different behaviours and outcomes for the British economy."Adam Marshall, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce, added: "The developing industrial strategy represents a crucial first milestone in a renewed partnership between business and government, working together to create the conditions for future growth."Business communities across the UK will be pleased to see that harnessing the potential of our cities, towns and counties lies at the heart of the government's approach to industrial strategy."There are dynamic business communities in every corner of the UK - and it is their future success that will make our country more competitive and more prosperous. A deliberate and steady approach that leads to long-term change is the right way to go."

Boosting tomorrow's workforce

The Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA), the largest professional body for environmental practitioners in the United Kingdom and worldwide, welcomed the focus on technical skills and education to boost “competence and capability” of tomorrow’s workforce.Martin Baxter, chief policy adviser at IEMA, said: “Government must use the industrial strategy as an opportunity to accelerate the UK’s transition to a low-carbon, resource efficient economy – one that is flexible and agile and which gives a progressive outlook for the UK’s future outside the EU."We welcome the focus on skills and education, as it is vital that tomorrow’s workforce has the competence and capability to innovate and compete globally in high-value manufacturing and leading technology."

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