Posted on 10 Mar 2010 by The Manufacturer

EAL respond to the EEF's Manufacturing Manifesto...

At the start of Manufacturing Week (March 1-5) EAL’s MD, Ann Watson, shared her <a href="https://www.themanufacturer.com/uk/content/10262/Understand_then_deliver_on_skills"manifesto wish list. Following the release of the EEF’s <a href="http://www.eef.org.uk/publications/reports/Back-at-the-Crossroads—Manifesto-for-Manufacturing.htm"Back at the Crossroads manifesto she expresses mixed feelings on its content.

“First of all I found it surprising how overtly the manifesto anticipated a change in governing power after the election with its reference to being ‘back at the crossroads’ of ten years ago – and without apparently recognising that a great deal of progress has taken place in that time.

There are certainly many positive things for me in this manifesto and plenty that matches up to my wish list as I expressed it last week. The need for consistency and focus from government strategy was highlighted well as was the need for simplification of the skills landscape. In particular I thought their call for clearing up the government quangos and the provision of funding and regulation for training was well communicated. The references to a sector led approach in this were encouraging.

What I thought was a shame though was the level of space given to talking about taxation at the cost of taking the opportunity to put pressure on our future government to incentivise and stimulate bank lending. The government are in a unique position at the moment following their action in the financial crisis to bring pressure to bear on several of the largest banks. It’s all very well to talk about getting a long term vision from government but it will be of no use if manufacturers cannot raise the funds for investment. This was a crucial point that was largely missed.

With particular regards to skills development it was great to see wholehearted support for more apprenticeships but at the same time there was a distinct lack of consideration for the continuing development of the workforce we have now. If we don’t give this incumbent workforce the knowledge they need to meet emerging technologies then there will not be appropriate support for those new apprentice level additions to the industry.

As a whole the appraisal of skills need and strategy in the EEF manifesto was the weakest aspect. There were plenty of suggestions but, unlike the examples from the rest of the manifesto these seemed to lack substance or real understanding and, for me, were exposed as being rather underinformed. They talked about prioritising resource for STEM, about diplomas and apprentices, but at no point was it clear what resources they were referring to.

Perhaps there is a point to be made here that we as educators need to communicate with organisations like EEF more thoroughly. At the moment it seems as though they have a superficial understanding of the what training organisations are doing to support broader manufacturing strategy. We are very active in making sure that we collaborate and communicate our offerings to employers, working with them to develop qualifications, but maybe we need to pay more attention to communicating this organisation like EEF. There is always room for improvement.

My final observation about the manifesto was that I was a little disappointed that it focussed so heavily on its expectations for government support and demands for greater lean efficiency but gave little room to telling manufacturing what it can do to help itself. There are certain areas where employers simply have to lead – skills is one of them. Also it is all very well to say that government should be leaner, but we are failing to realise a fantastic opportunity here for the manufacturing sector, with its lean maturity, to actually help the government do this.”