British professor John Bryson of the University of Birmingham has warned that the U.K. manufacturing industry faces the risk of a ‘collapse’, not due to cheap labour in foreign countries mind you, but due to a shortage of skilled labour in the U.K..
If only there were enough people with the right skills, then things would be humming along, since U.K. manufacturing output is actually booming.
According to Bryson’s research, manufacturing produces more now in equivalent value of products than it did in 1966, the peak year for manufacturing employment in the UK. But companies fear their businesses may not survive into the next decade because of their inability to recruit employees with the right expertise.
Bryson, who has been working on the project for five years, said: “Policymakers and government no longer understand British industry. Unfortunately, manufacturing conjures up images of pollution, heavy engineering and industrial decline, but this does not describe the new breed of British manufacturing companies that are constantly adapting to the needs of the customer.”
Despite surveys showing at least 70 graduates chasing every job, Bryson estimates that there will be 90,000 hard-to-fill manufacturing jobs in the West Midlands alone over the next five years.
High skill jobs in an industry that produces more output per worker than ever is a formula for healthy salaries. Too bad, for some reason, the skills aren’t there. It’s far easier to blame foreign competition for destroying local industries, but sometimes industries fall due to a failure of a country to adapt with the times.
And it’s almost never impossible to compete. The Guardian highlights the story of a British manufacturer of whistles for football referees… whistles of all basic things… who has outcompeted Chinese producers by constantly innovating its ‘Acme Thunderer’ design every single year. The company needs more skilled people, not cheap labour, to continue doing so.