As Liz Truss settles into her new role as Prime Minister, promising that the UK can ‘ride out' any post-pandemic turbulence (we agree with her on this, at least!), now is the ideal time for the Government to take decisive action to bolster perceptions of manufacturing and address the skills shortage that is affecting the industry at present.
Director of Hone-All Precision, Andrea Wilson, appeared on GB News last month to discuss the main issues affecting manufacturing SMEs as we enter the final quarter of 2022.
The Importance Of Investment
‘It always hurts,’ Andrea said with reference to the Bank of England’s decision to raise the UK’s interest base rate, but she emphasised the need to bring inflation under control to stabilise the nation’s economy. Rising interest rates will affect manufacturers’ investment decisions, especially given the high cost of equipment, so a long-term strategy focused on annual investment allowances and the super-deduction would help to offset the effects.
Changing Negative Perceptions
Faced with the suggestion that manufacturing has been ‘out of fashion’ with politicians for decades, Andrea wholeheartedly agreed, citing her efforts over the last 25 years to dispel negative perceptions of the industry. Modern manufacturing, she said, is ‘light, bright, and hi-tech’ but the industry isn’t prepared to ‘shout out enough’ about itself – even though it produces huge volumes of components that are essential to everyday use.
More Targeted Support
The manufacturing sector, Andrea argued, does not need ‘more support’ but ‘better use of the support that is there and easier access to it.’ This would help to overcome common problems, such as the lack of training facilities for engineers in the use of modern engineering equipment. Central to this would be the appointment of a dedicated Minister for Manufacturing.
‘We need a minister, or we need a voice for SMEs,’ Andrea explained, citing the postcode lottery for support for local businesses, and the lack of resources that prevent Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) and Chambers of Commerce from delivering targeted support where it is most needed. Many SMEs don’t hear about the support on offer; for example, in a survey of SMEs conducted by Make UK, most had only heard about three of the 15 support schemes available. It’s not, Andrea explained, that LEPs and Chambers of Commerce lack the expertise, but that they are unable to publicise all relevant information to hundreds or thousands of manufacturing SMEs in their locality.
Better targeted support, delivered in the right way to the right places, as part of a long-term strategy, would enable manufacturing businesses to increase productivity without necessarily employing even more people.
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