Technology institutes to receive £170m investment as part of UK industrial strategy
UK Prime Minister Theresa May has unveiled the Government’s industrial strategy which includes a £170m investment in new “prestigious” institutes of technology, alongside a fresh approach to science and innovation.
She said the approach was about “shaping a new future for the UK as a global Britain” after Brexit.
May will launch the strategy today at her first regional Cabinet meeting, in the north west of England. It is aimed at improving living standards, productivity and the spread of economic growth around the UK.
The Prime Minister told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show: “It’s about saying what are our strengths, as we come out of the European Union, we’re coming together as a country, we’re forging our shape, our future.
“We’re shaping a new future for the UK as a global Britain and how can we do that.”
She added: “What the modern industrial strategy will be about will be saying what is the shape of the economy that we want in the future.
“Where are the successful sectors that we can help to encourage to grow, but also what are the sectors that we need to look at for the future too.
“You’ve mentioned technical education, but there’s a lot we can do in science and innovation.”
At its heart will be an overhaul of technical education, including £170m of capital funding to set up institutes of technology to deliver education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem) subjects.
May also highlighted plans to extend specialist maths schools and a new research institute looking at battery and storage technology.
Thousands of technical qualifications, many of which the Government sees as low quality, will be replaced with 15 core technical “routes” designed to meet the needs of industry and teach skills in demand from local employers.
A new Ucas-style system of searching and applying for technical courses may be introduced to give interested young people clearer information and better support, creating a “genuine parity of aspiration” with university students.
The Government will also test moves to encourage lifelong learning, particularly in areas where industries are changing or in decline, including a review of whether to introduce maintenance loans for higher technical education.
Commenting on the plans, which will be outlined in a Green Paper, Business Secretary Greg Clark said: “The UK has some of the best universities in the world and our schools are improving, yet for too long technical education for school leavers has been neglected - with large differences in skill levels between regions.
“We must improve skills and opportunities so we can close the gap between the best people, places and businesses and the rest.”
Commons Education Committee chairman Neil Carmichael welcomed the announcement and said it could help Britain “go a long way” towards filling its 82,000-strong annual engineering skills gap.
“Stem subjects are exactly what we should be focusing on and high quality prestigious technical colleges, absolutely right,” he said.
CBI director-general Carolyn Fairbairn said the final plan must focus on boosting flagging productivity and addressing regional imbalances.
She said: “A modern industrial strategy will be a landmark opportunity to build a successful, modern economy as the foundation for a prosperous, fairer and more inclusive society.
“It must help fix the country’s productivity problems and remove the regional inequalities that have dogged our country for generations, having a positive impact on living standards, wages and the future opportunities of many people.
“The CBI has long-called for a new industrial strategy and it’s welcome to see the Government creating an opportunity for all sectors to get involved.”
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), which was involved in discussions leading to the Green Paper, welcomed the Government’s move towards providing region-specific help for firms.
FSB national chairman Mike Cherry said: “We are proud to be influencing a major Government economic blueprint and particularly pleased with the push on skills, infrastructure and connectivity as important drivers of productivity and industry.
“In addition, the moves towards a place-based strategy fit well with the UK small business community.
“Small firms are often the anchors in our local economies - in cities, towns and villages—right across the country.”
Terry Scuoler, chief executive of EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation urged the Government to work together with “clear leadership” from the PM and Cabinet to make the strategy a success.
He said: “This is an important first step towards creating a comprehensive, consistent and long-term industrial strategy that will help Britain adjust to a more globally-focused, post-Brexit economy.
“Manufacturing has a key role to play and we look forward to working with the Government on crystallising this into a strategic framework that will work and deliver for industry.
“The end result of this process must be an industrial strategy that lives up to the promise of driving different behaviours and outcomes for the British economy.”
British Chambers of Commerce director general Adam Marshall said: “The developing industrial strategy represents a crucial first milestone in a renewed partnership between business and government, working together to create the conditions for future growth.
“Business communities across the UK will be pleased to see that harnessing the potential of our cities, towns and counties lies at the heart of the Government’s approach to industrial strategy.
“There are dynamic business communities in every corner of the UK - and it is their future success that will make our country more competitive and more prosperous.
“A deliberate and steady approach that leads to long-term change is the right way to go.”
The aerospace industry welcomed moves to create sector deals.
Paul Everitt, chief executive of the aerospace trade body ADS says: “Sector specific industrial strategies are already helping UK aerospace to increase investment in R&T, improve productivity and compete more effectively in tough global markets.
“Today’s Green Paper signals a more ambitious approach to securing growth and preparing for the inevitable pressures that will accompany Brexit.”