News | Published March 10 2020

Paul Bristow Associates Ltd echo Make UK chief’s skills concerns

Comments made by the chief of a leading UK industry group concerning the skills gap in manufacturing are very much in line with the views of Paul Bristol Associates Ltd, a textile manufacturer in north Wales.

Stephen Phipson CBE, who heads Make UK, believes that the skills shortfall in the manufacturing sector as a whole presents more of a challenge than Brexit itself.

The body, which represents 20,000 manufacturing firms all over the UK, surveyed members ahead of the conference. 46.5 per cent reported that they wanted to see more government incentives to recruit apprentices.

Speaking at Make UK’s annual conference in February, Phipson said: “Every time you survey our members, every time you ask the question, the number one issues is skills, not Brexit. We need to concentrate on that issue.

“I'm committed to putting this skills agenda at the heart of government. Whatever opportunities we get from the new global Britain, we need a workforce with the skills to deliver it.

“Growing talent and skills is right at the top of our agenda.”

Paul Bristow Associated Ltd’s trio of co-directors, Benjamin, Sebastian and Margaret Bristow, are particularly concerned with the shortage of skills in the sewing area of manufacturing.

Writing in The Parliamentary Review, the directors said: "There seems to be a large shortage of sewing skills in the UK, despite its persisting necessity in many fields of work. One of the reasons for this, we believe, is that knowledge of sewing as a career option is nearly non-existent for the younger generations."

Much like Make UK’s members, the Bristows feel that the solution may lie in further government action, to change perceptions of the industry by providing incentives.

"What is portrayed often makes the sewing profession look old-fashioned or limited to poorer nations. This, however, is an inaccurate image, and one that we should be educating young people against. If in one generation’s time there are no people left who can sew, our company and others like it would not survive.

"The solution here may rest with government resolve.”

Indeed, the views of both Make UK as a collective and Paul Bristow Associates Ltd are supported by figures published by the British Chamber of Commerce, which show that the UK manufacturing sector is up against its largest shortage of skills for 30 years.

Brexit and a lack of training for youngsters has have been earmarked as blame factors, and Phipson believes that the new points-based immigration system that will enter force after the Brexit transition period will only make recruitment more challenging.

Phipson said: “The challenges are only getting tougher. Outside the EU, access to skilled labour will become harder and more expensive, we’ve seen that in the [government’s’ immigration proposals”.

Indeed, if the points-based system goes ahead, it will do little to fulfil the Bristows' hopes of positive government intervention within their industry.

The new proposals outline that migrants looking to come to the UK must speak English, have a job offer and earn at least £25,600 per year, instantly limiting firm's abilities to tap into foreign labour.

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Authored by

Scott Challinor
Business Editor
March 10 2020

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