New director general of the Institute of Directors Simon Walker has promised to throw his weight behind manufacturing.
His comments came as Mike Smith, chief executive of Birmingham-based Bromford Industries urged the Government to beef up its strategy for the sector.
Mr Walker was touring the West Midlands in a first visit to the region in the wake of taking up his post, and saw round Bromford, the Castle Bromwich Jaguar factory and the Worcester plant of machine tool maker Yamazaki Mazak UK.
Bemoaning the skills gap which makes it hard to get engineers, Mr Smith insisted: “Britain needs a proper manufacturing strategy and it needs to start in the schools, breaking the barriers and the belief that factories are dirty and dingy. It is not true.”
And he was supported by his chairman John Hudson who declared: “It is not anywhere near right at the moment.”
Mr Walker heard that Bromford Industries, backed by Darwin Private Equity, employed 350 across centres in Birmingham, Alcester, Coventry and Leicester. A maker of precision parts for aero engines, under-carriage assemblies and gears, along with industrial gas turbines, it has a turnover of £30 million, exporting nearly all its output.
Components go into the Eurofighter and end users include Siemens, Alstom, Rolls-Royce and Messier Dowty.
Yamazaki Mazak UK exports 90 per cent of its production. It also supplies Bromford Industries. It is investing heavily, continuing to expand despite taking a huge knock in the 2008/9 recession.
JLR’s Castle Bromwich factory, where once Spitfires were built, currently manufactures the XF, XK and XJ ranges. Launched in September, the revised XF range holds among it the most fuel efficient Jaguar ever created. The 2.2-litre diesel-powered executive car proved just how frugal it can be by claiming 62.9 mpg on a 2,884-mile journey across the US crossing three time zones and 11 states.
Jaguar’s fastest model in a generation – the XKR-S with a top speed of 186 mph and acceleration from 0-60 mph in 4.2 seconds – has just broadened its appeal with a convertible version available early next year. Utilising advanced lightweight aluminium technologies at Castle Bromwich enables Jaguar Land Rover to produce class-leading vehicles like the XJ – the lightest car in its class, allowing it to also be one of the most efficient and responsive.
Mr Walker said: “I was very impressed with what I saw – it is the future. It shows British ingenuity at its best. These are export-orientated businesses which is what we as a country need to be doing.
“I am keen to help the Government with its drive to rebalance the UK economy in favour of manufacturing.
“Yes, there is a lot of ground to make up. Our workforce gaps are not mirrored in France and Germany. But we have great brands which have massive potential.”
And he urged Ministers to make good on their promises to reduce the burdens on business. “We must make it easier to employ people.”
Mr Walker praised West Midlands IoD as being “enormously strong” and focussed on young people.
Regional chairman John Rider: “We have superb examples of top class manufacturing businesses in this area, but not enough of them. Young people need work and every effort must go into creating the jobs that are so badly needed.”