Saturday, May 21, 2022

Manufacturers dissatisfied with the progress of the Government’s Levelling Up agenda

Almost a third of manufacturers are dissatisfied with the progress of the Government’s Levelling Up agenda, according to a new report Levelling up: Bridging the gap between policy and progress, published by Make UK.

The report reveals that that manufacturers want to see mayors and local councillors given more responsibility for driving the levelling up agenda and better support for skills training and creation of job opportunities prioritised by Government.

The report goes on to say: “This suggests that existing programmes such as IoTs or the National Skills Fund is not adequately plugging this problem. However this is may not necessarily be due to the programmes’ designs, but awareness of the various support programmes available to manufacturers – for example, only 10% of manufacturers had heard of IoTs and were engaging with them. A lack of awareness is not a new issue, particularly amongst SMEs: previous Make UK research shows an average of 60% of businesses were unaware of available business support schemes or programmes.

Despite the manufacturing sector being able to stay open during the pandemic, over 50% still had to make redundancies, and 9 in 10 are concerned about accessing skills. It is therefore no surprise that we see manufacturers across every region wanting to see this prioritised. To date the Government has introduced a number of skills initiatives including the National Skills Fund, but as our data shows, almost a third of manufacturers had not even heard of it (29%), with only 21% had actually engaged with it.

If manufacturers are to overcome the skills challenges they face as a sector, Government must begin to address some of the long-standing issues manufacturers have been contending with, including rethinking the Apprenticeship Levy system – specifically to make it financially sustainable in the long-term.

Crucially, better support for skills training and creating job opportunities can only be achieved through improved transport connections, digital connectivity, affordable housing and greater devolution. Each of these are therefore enablers to improving access to people, skills and opportunity across all of the UK.

Across the Midlands and the East of England manufacturers want to see the Government prioritise supporting them transition to becoming net-zero. Over half of manufacturers across the East Midlands (56%) and East of England (55%) want to see greater emphasis on incentivising businesses to become net-zero. This is also reflected in the engagement with Government initiatives like the Net-Zero Strategy which is widely heard of in the region and manufacturers are engaging with it.

In addition to incentives to becoming net-zero, manufacturers in the Midlands and East of England also want to see Government investment in upgrading local infrastructure across the region. Whilst the average proportion of manufacturers across this region wanting to see this prioritised was less than in the North (49% vs. 66%), it underlines the argument that the further you go from London and the Southeast, the greater the need for better infrastructure.


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