There are two common views of UK manufacturing. One looks back nostalgically and concludes Britain ‘doesn’t make anything anymore’. The other looks forward fearfully and concludes that, although the industry will survive, new technology means there will be fewer and fewer jobs.
But at the TUC we know manufacturing is a vital part of our economy. And we believe the need to tackle global warming and the progress of sectors like robotics and artificial intelligence can reboot the industry.
So our latest report, All Tomorrow’s Jobs, sets the government a target to create a million more manufacturing and high-tech jobs by 2030.
The report looks at industrial policy in the UK, Germany, Italy and the EU, and lays out five priority policies that would help deliver this target:
• The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) aims to bring together UK researchers and businesses as part of a £4.7bn government investment in R&D over four years. At least a third of ISCF money must be directed towards investments which are known to provide quality employment.
• Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) should be required to develop local growth strategies, based on their specific strengths, joining with other LEPs where it this makes sense geographically. LEPs should work with trade unions at the local level to develop these strategies.
• Since two thirds of those who will be in employment in 2030 are already in the workforce, it is essential to invest in mid-career workers to make sure that ongoing job opportunities are provided in the next wave of technological disruption. All workers should have access to a mid-life training review to assess their skills and government must reintroduce individual learning accounts to give everyone a personalised budget for training.
• Workers must not be sidelined as the government develops its industrial strategy. There is one trade unionist on the government’s new Industrial Strategy Council (ISC), but unions must also be engaged with any other groups established as part of the ISC’s work. Trade unions must also be represented within the sector deals currently set up by the UK.
• After we leave the European Union, the UK must retain barrier-free, tariff-free, frictionless trade in goods and ensure that workers continue to be protected by EU levels of rights. The TUC believes that the best option available to achieve this is continued membership of the EU single market and customs union although we are open to alternatives.
In the report Ricardo Rodrigues Contreras, from the EU agency, Eurofound, discusses the importance of social dialogue and trade union voice in digital transformation.
Patrizio Bianchi and Sandrine Labory from the University of Ferrara discuss the Labour Pact, which defines the industrial policy of the regional government of Emilia Romagna, where unemployment as almost halved in the last three years.
Maddie Scott from the EEF, the UK manufacturing organisation, describes the factors that will determine UK success in the fourth industrial revolution, including education and training policy and leadership and management skills.
Maximilian Waclawczyk of the German metalworkers’ union, IG Metall, discusses how trade unions and industrial organisations worked together to develop industrial policy in response to the global financial crisis. Maximilian describes the challenges of a social-environmental transformation, challenges that can only be met engaging with those workers affected by structural change.
The overall message is clear: manufacturing has played a crucial role in the UK’s economic history, but it also remains a major part of our country’s future. All Tomorrow’s Jobs shows how that can happen.