Business minister Mark Prisk launches manufacturing exhibition at BIS offices and pledges to get behind manufacturing in build-up to new Strategy launch.
Mark Prisk, the Minister of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, launched the first of several mini-manufacturing exhibitions at BIS offices today (Monday).
He said the Government’s new Manufacturing Strategy, due to be published in November, would focus on three main pillars based on skills relevant to industry needs, a broad approach to finance that encompasses equity finance and might include the Green Investment Bank, and better face-to-face engagement of government with industry.
The exhibition in the entrance and first floor of BIS’s Westminster offices featured stands from four successful UK-based manufacturers: Craftsman Tools, a precision engineering SME, global construction equipment maker JCB, metrology equipment specialists Renishaw and Yamazaki Mazak, the world’s largest manufacturer of CNC metal-cutting machine tools which has its European design and manufacturing base in Worcester.
Mr Prisk emphasised the importance of skills in the new manufacturing strategy. “Although we had to make substantial reductions in our department’s spending soon after we took office, we put £150m of that straight into apprenticeships. If we’re going to grow the proportion of manufacturing that is part of the UK economy, we need to make sure that we have the skills needed. That means a stronger emphasis than we saw in the last government on good vocational skills and training.”
Manufacturers repeatedly express their lack of confidence that the skills being pushed in the raft of business support initiatives do not always match real business needs. Mr Prisk explained that, “the apprenticeships being funded are business-led and not administered by what the Government thinks we ought to have. We are going to strengthen the ability of the sector-teams in the FE sector to drive what kind of young apprentices they get.”
Finance and engagement
The Strategy will also focus on access to equity finance. “Our broad approach will look at debt finance, making sure that good SME companies in supply chains can access working capital, but also we’ll look at equity – for example, we’re developing our ideas with the Green Investment bank where there are several opportunities to direct equity investment into leading technologies coming through which manufacturing will be a crucial part of. It’s not all design, actually making things in the UK is very important.”
Engagement with government is a third strand, exemplified by the mini-expo. “I want to ensure that the Government understands fully what we do in this country and what we make. That means both an exhibition like here today, but it also means being demanding of the existing sector teams that we have both civil servants and the businesses engaged, so that we are collectively ambitious for UK manufacturing. The UK has tremendous strengths, like aerospace, automotive and we’re looking to strengthen our marine sector. We’re looking to establish a broader base of high value manufacturing capability.”
He said he had mandated the various sector groups to be genuinely active forums between their sectors and ministers, which he will take direct involvement in and responsibility for. He referred the Automotive Council by name, specifying ministerial help with synchronising the needs of tier two and three suppliers with OEMS to ensure low carbon vehicle production can advance.
“This exercise is about being demanding of industry to say: ‘we in government need to improve our act, UK manufacturing has a lot of opportunities but needs to show how it can improve its performance, let’s be ambitious together.”
Mr Prisk is spending one-day with five SMEs this year, starting in June when he visited DIY Kyoto in Bethnal Green, London. In October he will visit Ashley Anderson, a mobility furniture manufacturer and Michelmersh Brick. He will visit Qualiturn in his constituency later in the year.