Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Radical ideas at regional policy forum

Our session at the regional conference focused on skills for work, drawing together our earlier work on education and manufacturing.

We welcomed Clive Hickman, chair of the division of manufacturing of the
Institution of Mechanical Engineers to talk about skills development.

Clive is also chief executive of the Coventry Manufacturing Technology Centre.

Clive identified three problems: industry cannot get engineers; millions of
young adults are unemployed; graduates are coming out of university with
degrees that do not equip them for jobs.

His solution is radical. He suggests policy should shift away from 50% of
young people doing degrees.

Instead he suggests:

  • 30% to do degrees;
  • 40% to do four year apprenticeships, generally between the ages of 16 and 
  • 20; 30% to take on less skilled jobs.

In conversation with me prior to the session, Clive pointed out the extent to
which UK manufacturing is an increasing success story. Within a few
years the UK will be producing more motor vehicles than ever in its history -
about 2 million a year, he reckons. The coalition government has backed
industry and continues to put investment into our region via the Regional Growt
h Fund and LEPs.

Clive's proposal is radical but he was keen to stress that a great deal more can
be done with apprenticeships. We discussed with him about graduate
expectations and the possibility of formalising - as graduate apprenticeships -
more of the in-work training that most graduates have to do. He also set out
how his own organisation is proposing a new model of apprenticeship aimed at
supporting the needs of small business.

The discussion brought together two threads of our work from the last few
years, manufacturing and education. There seemed general consensus to
keep up our investigations. In particular the ideas provoked by Clive's
comments should help us as the party's working group on post-16 education
(which Lee Dargue is on) comes up with findings.

If you are a member of the Lib Dems in the West Mids region and would like to be involved with our work, please get in touch

Cllr Jon Hunt , regional policy chair

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