Paul McCairn, a board member of the Black County Chamber of Commerce (of which I am a member), suggested yesterday in an article on the BBC website entitled ‘Unskilled school leavers hold up manufacturing growth’ that businesses like his are having problems finding school leavers with the right skills. I would not doubt it.
But the reality of the situation is that it’s simply not true that the education system is the only reason for the difficulties in the manufacturing sector over recent years or for its slow level of re-growth in recent months. Indeed education does not even get into my own top 4 reasons for the state of today’s manufacturing industry.
Here are the four problems that I believe have a far greater impact than the one mentioned in the BBC article:
- The habitual failure of manufacturing businesses to invest and innovate;
- The treatment by successive governments of manufacturing as a sector worthy of little support;
- The unwillingness of the banks to support grass roots manufacturing;
and for me, the killer because I see it often
- The failure of many of the owners of the more established manufacturing businesses to see their own skills shortcomings – particularly their entreprenerial skills – as the single main issue holding back the business. I believe that today’s manufacturing leaders are a mere shadow of the giants of the past.
The seeds of the decline in manufacturing were sown a good many years ago, long before the current education systems were even thought about. The real problems lie entirely outside of the education system. Resolve the 4 problems above and people will be attracted to the sector, creating a demand for better education. Any issues with the current education system are mere symptoms of the real problems the sector has, they are not the root cause. And until that is recognised, and something done about it, manufacturing will continue on its slow downward trend.