Follow Germany’s example, Unite tells Govt on manufacturing policy

Posted on 21 May 2012

Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke urged the government to change its industrial policy if it is to support the manufacturing sector and ensure it has the skills it needs in order to grow.

In an article published on BAE Systems’ in-house magazine, Heads up, Mr Burke referred to Germany as the country Britain should look to to reform its strategy for the sector.

He said: “We know the skills of Unite members are world class but one of my big fears is that we may lose the skills. Once you lose them it is difficult to get them back.”

Burke went on to share seven “lessons from Germany”, the first one being that manufacturing in the UK needs an image makeover as it is not seen as an attractive career choice. “In Germany manufacturing is seen as a good job. There, young people start getting interested in manufacturing jobs from an early age. But then there’s no image problem. There is nothing wrong with working with BMW or Bosch.”

Other lessons included:

  • the need for apprenticeships that can compete with a university career (which means a good salary with excellent terms and conditions);
  • the introduction of a National Investment Bank to assist SMEs would make it easier to obtain funding;
  • special initiatives such as the scrappage scheme help secure manufacturing infrastructure;
  • more involvement with the EU is necessary;
  • there is a way to compete with growing economies like China or Brazil, and that is focusing on quality;

Burke added: “We have to look at what we do and make sure that when we need goods they are actually made in this country. It is farcical when Bombardier, the last train company in the country, doesn’t win the contract to manufacture the Thameslink carriages. It just wouldn’t happen in Germany, Japan or France.”