There are many excellent manufacturing companies creating jobs and hope for our young people across Britain. To help young people get these good jobs, we must improve Britain’s vocational education.
The University Technology Colleges are a worthy project, which we at Warwick University are supporting with our proposed WMG Academy.
There is now a consensus developing on vocational skills and I hope the Technical Baccalaureate proposed by Ed Miliband is integrated into a bipartisan vocational education reform programme.
Equally, applied research is essential to our future growth, so projects like the technology ‘catapults’ and the expanded Research Partnership Investment Fund will encourage business and academia to work together to support innovation.
Yet for all these positive steps, manufacturing’s progress is slowed by policies that retard growth, discourage investment and undermine innovation.
A blunt immigration cap prevents quality overseas businesses from bringing talent to the UK, reducing vitally needed capital investment.
The abolition of regional development agencies has left a hole in many manufacturing development projects. The local enterprise partnerships and the Regional Growth Fund are doing their best, but they don’t have the scale to make a big difference in vital areas like infrastructure.
Finally, creating a state investment bank to support private lending should not take this long. We need a proper industrial investment institution with real scale.
Instead of developing something with a real chance of making a difference, we’ve seen hard to access programmes like ‘Funding for Lending’ which haven’t really done much to help anyone.
The big danger is that Britain is still arguing over the design of our industrial strategy while our competitors are already working on the production line.
The Government has shown willingness to say the right things, and has made some constructive steps.
It’s right to welcome this change of approach, just as Ed Miliband deserves credit for making vocational, industrial and manufacturing issues the centrepiece of his changes to Labour party policy.
However if we want a true manufacturing revival then ministers must convert fine intentions into practical action.
* Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya is founder of Warwick Manufacturing Group