A concrete commitment

At the risk of hyperbole, it is probably fair to say that the recent Budget was possibly the most positive for manufacturing that most of those reading this can remember.

And while it may be the case that this fact is as much proof of how neglected manufacturing has been in recent decades as of how highly the current Government regards the sector, it is nonetheless represents a wholly welcome change. There were a number of positives to be drawn from the Chancellor's speech. Not the least of these were a doubling of the Research and Development Tax Credit for small companies and £2bn extra for the Green Investment Bank.

However, it was in the area of skills that the really heartening news was to be found. Among the highlights of the Budget was the Government's announcement of £180 million for up to 50,000 additional apprenticeship places over the next four years. Equally pleasing was the pledge to expand the University Technical Colleges (UTCs) programme in order to establish at least 24 new colleges of this type. Also welcome is the support for business consortia to set up and maintain advanced and higher apprenticeship schemes, supported by grants, creating a further 10,000 apprenticeships.

Perhaps what is most heartening about these developments is that they represent a concrete commitment on the part of Government to placing manufacturing and engineering at the heart of the UK's economic recovery. We have all heard promises from Government before. Here, at last, appears to be evidence that this administration is prepared to back up its words with deeds. Long may it continue.

Paul Fanning

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