Due recognition for manufacturers

John GettyThe East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce recently provided British Chambers of Commerce with a report on the actions that would be needed of the next government to re-establish manufacturing as an essential part of a modern economy.

We’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of the contributors to the report, including the Lancashire Manufacturing and the Advanced Manufacturing Group members.

This has already provoked a pretty simple question; “How will we know when we’ve succeeded?”

After some thought, and wishing to keep it simple (we’re addressing this to politicians, after all), the best I could manage so far, is that when I tell people that I’m an engineer or manufacturer, their immediate response is ‘that’s great’ or ‘tell me more’, or even a ‘thank you’.

This might seem trite, but it’s how you would be regarded in competitor countries like Germany and China. In Italy, for instance, you can put the letters Ing. after your name as a qualified engineer rather like Dr. for doctor

Be honest, if you’re a manufacturer in the UK, do you feel appreciated at all?

This matters so much. Leaving aside that Lancashire has 100,000 jobs in manufacturing and a further 60,000 in dependent services, and that the UK is the 6th largest manufacturing economy in the world, to survive we simply have to compete; and to compete we have to attract the best talent, whether at graduate, technician or operator level.

Will we succeed in this if manufacturing is continued to be held in low esteem?

The UK, by the way, is now running at just 13% of all employment being in manufacturing. Notwithstanding how efficient the remarkable productivity gains of the last 10 years, no other G20 economy is based on this low a level.

We do accept, of course, that manufacturing is only part of the mix, and that Lancashire also needs to continue to create and attract higher value service jobs as well – hence our historic support for the ill-fated Blackpool Casino and, the more hopeful Pennine Playground and otherwise playing on Lancastrians’ natural hospitality to develop the visitor economy.

However, growing the service sector as a complement to, rather than as an alternative to, the manufacturing is what should be done.

We at the chambers will maintain the pressure on government for proper recognition for our manufacturers, but in the meantime we’d like to express our gratitude to you unsung heroes.

John Getty, president, Chamber of Commerce East Lancashire.