“Zero 11 year-olds want to work in manufacturing and that must change,” declared Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg.
Addressing leaders across industry at the Manufacturing Summit at the Bristol and Bath Science Park, Mr Clegg was met with the following response from the floor:
- Improve the standard of science labs in schools.
- Stop the devaluation of engineering across the curriculum.
- It is not just government, industry and schools who must raise the image of manufacturing, but parents also.
However, the announcement from Clegg that the third round of the Regional Growth Fund (RGF) was about to begin was congratulated by the founder and chairman at precision machining firm Renishaw, Sir David McMurtry, who said: “the Government has renewed its focus on manufacturing.”
Clegg said that over £7bn of private funding had been invested in business as a result of the £1.4bn RGF funding, £420m of which went to manufacturing firms, for rounds one and two.
Steve Radley, director of policy at the manufacturers’ organisation EEF said: “Government has listened to the views of business and has now delivered a simplified and more transparent bidding system which should help ensure that funding flows through to projects far more quickly.
“This is essential if we are to drive our regional economies forward, create jobs and help to deliver the more balanced growth we urgently need,” he added.
However, Mr Radley said that “if the Government wants to get businesses investing and creating the jobs our economy urgently needs we need to see a reinvigorated effort.”
Angela Coleshill, the director of competitiveness at the Food and Drink Federation, said: “Today’s announcement of a further £1bn through the regional growth fund could help food and drink businesses to realise their potential.”
Ms Coleshill added: “This funding could help businesses invest in the new infrastructure needed to meet overseas demand for great British-made brands, which in turn not only creates new jobs here in the UK, but also helps to safeguard existing ones.”
David Raistrick, UK manufacturing leader at accountancy firm Deloitte commented: “The fund will provide a much needed boost to regions across the UK where there are a number of innovative manufacturers who have been challenged by access to finance. Job creation and preservation is vital to the UK, particularly in the manufacturing sector, which is still being seen as one of the fuel engines of the economy.”
Referring to the recent CIPD Labour Market Outlook that reported levels of unemployment could reach 2.85m by the end of 2012, with the manufacturing sector leading the downward spiral, Unite union’s assistant general secretary Tony Burke said: “The UK desperately needs an interventionist long term industrial policy with manufacturing at its heart to create jobs.”
Mr Burke added: “Unemployment is leading to a loss of vital skills. The government’s strategy of turning back the clock to the 1980s with rehashed youth employment schemes and enterprise zones will not work.”
Businesses have until June to apply for a share the extra £1bn.