Perceptions 'need to change'
CBI head to demand ‘modern industrial strategy’
She will argue that the sector matters for prosperity and makes the economy more balanced, diversified and innovative.
To succeed in reversing the long term decline of the sector Ms Fairbairn will call on the Government to give its full backing to a modern ‘Industrial Strategy’. She will call on business to work in partnership with the Government to embrace long term opportunities and trends, particularly in digital.
She will also emphasise the need to focus on developing the right skills in the sector, managing energy costs, and encouraging more R&D investment.
Speaking to manufacturing firms at the University of Warwick, she will outline the importance of the sector to supporting higher-skilled jobs outside London and to diversifying the UK’s economy to make it more resilient to economic shocks.
However, she will describe UK manufacturing as a ‘tale of two sectors’, outlining the contrast between the steel industry’s high-profile difficulties with the automotive sector’s record productivity, production and sales.
She will say: “Steel gives a sharp example of where we didn’t think long term. Where the answers didn’t come until it was too late.
“Yet the automotive industry provides the evidence that a clear, collaborative approach works. The industry came together, identified barriers holding back its productivity and put its top three proposals to Government.
“Government acted and deserves great credit for doing so. The results have been astounding.
“Manufacturing is evolving. And in today’s knowledge economy – the line between ‘manufacturing’ and ‘services’ is blurring even further. For example, in the creative industries the making of a television programme is categorised as a service. Yet it is filmed, edited and made – and exported – with many characteristics of a physical product.
“In the years to come, as digital technologies increasingly define what we make and do, I think we’ll see more creative and technology companies doing things which could be classed as ‘manufacturing’.
She will call for measures to change outdated perceptions of manufacturing as dirty and requiring more brawn than brain.
“Skills can be linked to an outdated perception of what a career in manufacturing is like. I recently asked CEOs from across our manufacturing sector what worries them most about the future of UK manufacturing. It was this problem they raised first – our ability to enthuse and train the next generation,” she said.
“We need to offer young people a true picture of 21st Century manufacturing.”
Ms Fairbairn will say that a collaborative approach works best. “The automotive industry provides the evidence that a clear, collaborative approach works,” she will say. “The industry came together, identified barriers holding back its productivity and put its top three proposals to Government.
“Government acted and deserves great credit for doing so. And the results have been astounding. Productivity in this sector is now twice the national average. Last year, UK new car sales hit a 10-year high.”
She will add that industry has the ability to help itself, but it can do so with the appropriate backing of government.
“Modern Industrial Strategy isn’t about ‘handouts’ for business. It’s an investment in our future competitiveness which will pay dividends in sales, exports, jobs and livelihoods.
“Let’s help other sectors to do what we’ve already seen in automotive and aerospace. Let’s scale-up this approach. And deliver long term results by 2030.
“The Business Secretary’s talked about an “open door” policy on government and industry working together. I’m sure firms – including our great manufacturers – will be queuing round the block.”