For many years, manufacturing was the lifeblood of Britain. But since the 1960s its share of both GDP and employment has fallen drastically. There is light at the end of the tunnel, however. Britain remains a major force in manufacturing, particularly in sectors such as aerospace and automotives. Technology is reshaping whole industries — killing some markets and products, and spawning new ones — and as technologies advance, our industries need to advance too.
On 19 October we hosted a forum, kindly sponsored by BAE Systems, to look at British manufacturing. Some of its highlights are reported here. Our business editor Martin Vander Weyer looks at the factories of the future There’s a forward-looking message from Business Secretary Sajid Javid. Sir Roger Carr, chairman of BAE Systems, speaks on of a renaissance in British manufacturing, with exports markets thriving and a rising demand. Will Butler-Adams, MD of Brompton Bicycles, says that while there is big growth potential, there is also a lack of skills. We need to adapt our education system to suit the needs of industry, he argues. The government sees apprenticeships as the answer and has set a target of three million new ones by 2020. I speak to four current apprentices, who all tell of a lack of encouragement in schools. This needs to change, but without allowing quantity to override quality. This was another topic at the forum, as Ross Clark reports in his piece.
Expanding our markets and making sure our exports grow is vital. We need to make sure future generations have the right skills and get more girls involved. British manufacturing is far from dead. But we need to make the world aware of this… and to get our reputation back on track.
Camilla Swift, Editor