Manufacturing jobs, the quiet success story
Since the UK started to come out of recession, there has been much discussion about how to create a different economy. Politicians have increasingly talked about rebalancing and the Chancellor spoke about a new economic model with a goal of expanding exports to £1trillion per year by 2020.
Manufacturing can't drive this growth solely but, recent evidence suggests it has a major role to play. To back this, some more evidence quietly emerged last week amidst the latest employment figures.
As well as the very welcome reduction in the overall figure, buried amidst the detail were figures for manufacturing which showed the fastest quarterly growth in industry jobs since sector records began in 1978. This increase of 38,000 was a 1.5% increase on the previous quarter and helped push the annual increase up by 0.6% to 2.56 million people now employed in the sector.
The official data is also now reflecting EEF's own quarterly business trends survey which has shown manufacturers recruitment intentions have been positive every quarter since the beginning of 2010. These figures don't suggest for one minute that we are going to return to the heady days of large parts of our economy employed in manufacturing. But what they do show is that our sector is both resilient and growing on the back of strong export ked demand, especially to emerging economies.
They also show that employers have a strong demand for highly skilled people and are able to offer significant and challenging career opportunities. Those of us who work in the sector have known this for some time but we now need to shout about it. We need to ensure that the parents of our schoolchildren know this, that teachers and careers advisers are aware of this and that government continues to invest all its energies in putting vocational and academic education on an equal footing.
At a time when our economy needs to create as many high value jobs as it can, it is pleasing to see manufacturing companies in the West Midlands doing their bit by providing the skilled opportunities we need. There are many success stories in our region, from large companies to small, that are offering these opportunities and the official figures are quietly beginning to bear this out. Whilst there is no sign of an end game to the uncertainty across the channel which may make life more difficult in the near term last week's figures were another indicator of why I am so confident for the future of manufacturing.