back to article UK industry bods: Re-train one million manufacturing workers to deal with new tech

The UK lacks effective leadership in digital manufacturing technologies, with a fragmented skills system and poor support for startups in the field, a review has said. Made Smarter UK (PDF), commissioned by the business department and published today, was led by Siemens UK boss Juergen Maier. The purported aim is to create " …

  1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Same old same old

    This will identify areas of skills shortages potential recruits wanting reasonable salaries

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Same old same old

      Well, that's part of a wider problem of cost competitiveness for Britain as a manufacturing base. Government insist on exacting taxes on UK payrolls (mainly employer's NI), they load companies up with costly obligations not incurred in cheaper locations (eg pension commitments, training levies), they impose crappy bureaucracy (low carbon commitments, anti-slavery audits), and they have an energy policy that INTENTIONALLY gives UK industry the highest electricity costs in Europe.

      Some of those things (training, pensions et al) will be seen as a good thing, problem is that our government do not impose those costs on companies in locations where those costs are avoidable, and you have to ask why any sane employer would base themselves in the UK, when the government are so ineffectual in promoting either industry or technology?

      1. Warm Braw

        Re: Same old same old

        I think most studies into the problem of cost competitiveness for Britain as a manufacturing base would put lack of investment ahead of other issues. If payroll tax were a real issue, automation would be replacing people, but in fact it's the other way round, much to the detriment of productivity.

        Of course uncertainty is one reason to defer investment, particularly right now, but why put up capital investment if you can simply get cheap drones to do the work of machines? The price of labour needs to be increased - ideally through upskilling since that generates economic activity, but if necessary by increasing employment taxes and recyling the money into investment tax breaks.

        Of course the other reason is that the advancement of business thrives if there is a nexus of talent. For better or worse, the City of London is an obvious example. There isn't a manufacturing nexus (any more), just scattered islands of innovation - that was one of the things the "Northern Powerhouse" idea was supposed to help with, but it will take rather more than that to build a new era of Victorian industrial development (though we seem to have gone a long way towards recreating the social conditions).

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Same old same old

          I think most studies into the problem of cost competitiveness for Britain as a manufacturing base would put lack of investment ahead of other issues.

          But any large company looks at the other criteria before deciding where to invest. So if it is expensive to employ people, companies will move their investment elsewhere, which then shows up as a productivity improvement for that lower cost location.

          business thrives if there is a nexus of talent. For better or worse, the City of London is an obvious example

          Really? I've worked in the City, and the things that keep it successful aren't the excess of over-paid w@nkers in the banks, whom you can hire anywhere, but a business friendly regulatory environment, finance friendly taxation, and access to very high quality law courts and legal advice (which are vital to complex contract-based money making). The problem for science and technology, and manufacturing is that those business friendly behaviours aren't seen, other than through insincere words from politicians.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Same old same old

            Short version: The City is corruption friendly.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Same old same old

      A large percentage of the working classes will be replaced by robots and automation over the next few decades anyway. And to a lesser degree skilled service, legal and financial industry jobs by AI systems....

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Same old same old

        "And to a lesser degree skilled service, legal and financial industry jobs by AI systems...."

        I think you'll find that it will be a greater extent.

        Robots cost serious money compared to increased computing power for brainiac work.

        The low hanging fruit is in white collar stuff - and that's been happening for decades. Robots may have replaced dirty/dangerous jobs in factories but that's about it - and automation is still mostly targetting the jobs that are heavy/hot/dull as hell or where repeatability is paramount. One example I've been peripherally involved in used cameras to assess temperature variation in steel blocks coming out of a refectory furnace for a specialised application. The skilled guys take 20 years to train and even they're not as accurate as a thermal imaging setup with appropriate (simple) logic.

        Far more people have been put out of office jobs by computers/automation than any kind of factory work. When was the last time you saw a room full of accounts ledger clerks?

        1. TheVogon

          Re: Same old same old

          "Robots cost serious money compared to increased computing power for brainiac work."

          Not necessarily. An automatic vacuum cleaner for instance costs a couple of hundred quid.

          "The low hanging fruit is in white collar stuff -"

          Disagree. The lower hanging fruit is lots of types of manual labour that can be automated. Johnny Cabs are coming soon!

        2. HmmmYes

          Re: Same old same old

          Or typists.

          I remember going into an office in he early 90s and seeing about 50 typists.

          Even then, it was like wandering onto a South American and finding dinosaurs.

          Financial services, low and high, are being reamed. No other word for it.

          Numbers are easily digitised, so processing of them can easily automated.

          Most of the other jobs in finance will go as banks are forced to hold more capital/heavily regulated (and rightly so) and trading your book and the like are banned.

      2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        Re: Same old same old

        And what isn't taken by metal robots will be sent offshore to be done by fleshy robots in the sweatshops of South Asia.

        Abandon Hope all who are here!

        We are doomed!

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Same old same old

        @AC and "A large percentage of the working classes will be replaced", that is what they would like but ultimately someone has to repair and innovate.

        If you buy in tools and neglect your own people then you either keep buying them in until your money runs out or grow your own tool manufacturing and innovation and start selling.

        1. TheVogon

          Re: Same old same old

          "that is what they would like but ultimately someone has to repair and innovate."

          But that becomes largely a highly skilled job for AI and robotics, not a working class role..

          "If you buy in tools and neglect your own people"

          There will just be fewer people required that will in general be highly skilled and relatively well paid. Companies mostly wont give a crap about the proles.

          The real question is - what will happen to those that are not that smart and / or don't have a trade / education? Whilst there will always be some working class jobs, I think jobs for that sector will gradually become in short supply. For instance we could already pretty much replace train drivers. (And that cant come soon enough imo - £60K for pushing a button and they still strike all the time?!)

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I was thinking about this the other day.

    Once you plug the digital skills gap then you are left with a society that can code their own programs making the companies pressing for these skills out of work.

    I am of course looking at this from a simplistic view but why would anyone that can create and earn money from their skills themselves work for someone else earning them money in the long term?

    1. smudge

      Because you need more than just a programmer to build and sell systems and products?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        That's true, but I was thinking more of creating programmes for themselves.

    2. Cab


      I've been teaching programming for well over a decade to undergraduates on degree programmes that have to be able to code to hold down a job in the field (first CS then Electronic and Robotic Engineering). So reasonably intelligent folk with at least a small amount of motivation (should be more but hey...). Let's kill off the great lie here and now. Not everyone can code, not everyone will be able to code, not at a consistent, competent level anyway.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Reality

        @cab and "Not everyone can code" yet Microsoft still exists

        Whilst the local law limits innovation then expect more dross.

      2. HmmmYes

        Re: Reality


        Maybe those who cant can teach or something...

        Everyone can code, like everyone can do maths or play football. Just that some are very good at it and some play for the Scottish national team.

    3. Colin Tree

      my advantage

      I've used my tech skills to create cad/cam high tech wooden surfboards and try and encourage the surfing community away from plastics into a sustainable future.

      Now I've just got to make a buck out of it.

      I've got negative earnings, so tax breaks are useless, used my super to fund development.

  3. Roland6 Silver badge

    "There are three problems ... with little support for startups.


    and targeted financial incentives such as tax credits for businesses adopting the tech."

    So not really supporting startups, just favourable taxation for established companies, such as Siemens...

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Nope, lost me....what's that?

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Training?

      Yeah, exactly. I wonder if this is going to be like the last digital training initiative, where the target of one million people being re-trained won't be at the level of educating people to support an existing career now undergoing changes or to take up a complete change of career, but a figure made up largely by middle-managers going on a one-day workshop somewhere nice.

      Even if it was at the (pretty low) level of getting FE colleges to offer a 12-week one-session-a-week evening class that still means you need the involvement of about a thousand colleges -- and a thousand qualified and available lecturers -- to meet the target.

    2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: Training?

      For people who are employed, Training is now:-

      1) Something that companies don't provide to staff

      2) Something that you pay for out of your taxed income

      3) Something that you do in your holiday from your company job

      4) Something that you do when about to move to a new job because of 1) above

      Isn't that the reality these days?

    3. Tom 7

      Re: Training?

      Its what managers dont have and think everyone else shouldn't have either.

  5. Pen-y-gors


    I really, really do not want to know what that picture is illustrating. Latest anti-virus recommendations?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Picture?

      It's what you do to a co-worker who is hygienically challenged and thinks brushing teeth is a luxury. Nothing more educational than an enviro suit to enjoy your own smell..

    2. Random Handle

      Re: Picture?

      >I really, really do not want to know what that picture is illustrating

      Given the article content, I'm guessing they did a stock image search for 'bear shitting in the woods' and that's one of the Fire Bear guys

  6. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "smaller businesses train their staff."

    They seem very keen on SMBs. SMBs are really going to be keen on borrowing to invest and then finding themselves falling prey to the likes of RBS.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      " and then finding themselves falling prey to the likes of RBS"

      Or megacorps going "Thanks for creating this market. We'll have that" - which is what happened to all the ISPs

  7. HieronymusBloggs

    Digital manufacturing

    They want people who work with their fingers?

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Digital manufacturing

      "They want people who work with their fingers?"

      And their hands.

  8. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    Sounds great

    doesn't it.

    The usual key buzzwords, the usual glossy booklet, keen figures from whatever industry is involved.

    And then, we get down to the basics.

    And just like the health service, to get any results you need long term training , planning and investment.

    (hint : training someone like me takes 3 to 4 yrs basic/apprenticeship followed by 4 yrs experience after wards) so thats the government less than interested as any result will occur during the next government.

    And you can be sure theres no training budget from private companies because all the C level manglement will think is "If we train our staff, they'll want more money or they'll clear off somewhere else, but we can always outsource the lot of them, claim a stonking great bonus and clear off ourselves before the company goes titsup"

    In short, another glitzy idea to con money out of the government without addressing the actual problems facing the modern workforce.

    Which are

    Job insecurity

    Low wages

    And Job insecurity.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Sounds great

      We have a winner.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sounds great

      You missed out the problem of finding time served experts willing to take a pay drop to train up their replacements. Historically the training ends up being provided by wannabes and incompetents who wouldn't last five minutes in competition with the rest of the world.

      Better to form a guild from the only existing professionals and get them to define the standard for admittance to their guild. Then make the universities compliant with the new standard and then train up the new experts via university and employer based experience.

      We used to have a working system with Scientists doing the innovation and Engineers implementing the new technology now we only play catch up with the countries that took our work system and implemented it no matter the cost.

      Basically when businesses that run by people who are not experts in the subject they are selling, set the rules then they price cut until they deskill themselves from the market and then demand money from the state to prop up their failing companies. Better to let them fail and let someone else be in control who actually knows what they are selling.

    3. HmmmYes

      Re: Sounds great

      Very true.

      Me? 2 years A level, 4 years degrees, 5 years experience to become very productive - grand total of 11 years. Sure I cold accelerate some of that but only by a 2-3 years.

      No the problem with that is that is a good 3-4 years longer than the typical UK business cycle.

      And hat brings th UK back to to problem of any enterprise that involves a high degree of education, skill and experience - it takes time.

      If you want those skills then theres two ways you can do it:

      1) Decide on how many people you want and recruit 3x times that number - allowing one to be crap, one to leave and one to be good + stay.

      2) Find someone and pay what they ask.

      Germany seems good at 1) - vocation education, and thats goes up to very high skill levels.

      USA is good at 2) - they pay very high salaries.

      UK operates a hire and fire like USA but not the high salaries. And fails to train like Germany.

      UK is more + more fucked esp. as the thing that ws to make the UK rich -financial services - is being reamed by tech.

  9. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    "The UK lacks effective leadership in manufacturing technologies,"


    My impression of the UK is that there are quite a lot of SME's that are good at what they do.

    However they don't leverage each other and their success is more due to a small (possibly 1 person) cadre of staff within the company who are very competent.

    They don't usually seem to be in management or ownership and have little or no authority to make investment decisions.

    The description of the British army in WW1 seems appropriate.

    "Lions, lead by Donkeys"

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    little support for startups

    plain English: give us dosh for yet more DISRUPTIVE technologies! If not... THE END IS NEAR!!!!!!!!!!!!

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We need people interested enough to educate themselves

    The behaviour of highly qualified people is that they teach themselves what they need.

    The idea that working people need training on everything is bullshit. Here you are. There’s a manual. Get on or here’s your cards.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      "There’s a manual. Get on or here’s your cards."

      I've heard that's SOP in British companies.

      The question is should it be SOP in the future?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: We need people interested enough to educate themselves

      @adeyjay I recognise your thinking, it is the idea that someone else will always rise to provide you with a management job. You do not understand or care about the why you just want to dictate the what.

      Where the local employment market is so unfavorable that your working person of greater ability cannot afford to work in the subject they love they will be forced to work in something else where their talent is wasted.

      If you want to get the best out of your people then allow them a route to improve themselves to the point where they can bring money in to your country by doing what they love.

  12. Dave Lawton

    The UK lacks effective leadership

    Says it all, doesn't it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The UK lacks effective leadership

      @Dave Lawton, "The UK lacks effective leadership " no they actively prevent it.

      The only leadership allowed is that acceptable to the existing leadership and they have the money and control to make certain they or someone sufficiently identical takes their place.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: The UK lacks effective leadership

        Not identical, things have got worse.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The UK lacks effective leadership

          "Not identical, things have got worse", yes identical but without anything remaining to sell off.

          Same old money for the boys at the majorities expense, same old idea that you can keep flogging the horse when you already sold it's legs to get enough cash for a tax reduction for the least needy.

          Whilst the majority believe the hate and lies and keep voting for policies that would not have seemed out of place in Germany just before WWII, then expect more of the same.

          As they say, you get the government you deserve

  13. Colin Tree

    poor innovators

    You will find artisans, innovators and creative people living in lower cost regions.

    They are focused on creating, not making mellions to pay inner city London rent and hanging around with tossers partying. They congregate in stimulating communities, feeding off each other's passions and sharing. You can't make it happen, just create the environment for it to coalesce.

    Next come the trendies who like to be 'in the scene', then the rich tossers come to party with the trendies, then the artisans piss off somewhere else more conducive.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: poor innovators

      Not only are you right, this sort of thing tends to happen in small market towns rather than cities. But we're seeing the problems here. The word gets round and the next thing is you have rents and house prices going up rapidly. If we had a system of price controls as they have in Germany it would be easier to create a Mittelstand.

  14. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    NEUKlearer HyperRadioProActively Armed and Dangerous and Highly Divisive.

    Rebecca, Hi,

    You could ask of Siemens and Siemens UK boss Juergen Maier whether they are themselves into hugely disruptive and creative programming support of the Semi-Autonomous Presentation of Applications Drivering and Delivering Future Augmented Virtual Reality Programming with Heavenly Tasks.

    It is something they are made aware of for they have been contacted for a show of interest, or not as the case may be. Too hot to handle will always sort out the men from the boys........

    You have entered the following information: [onto

    Mr. xxxxxx x

    Address: Street / Number

    ZIP Code xxxxxxx

    Region: xx

    Email: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

    Your Message:

    Stepping up to the Mark and onto the Plate Are Siemens researching Future Augmented Virtual Reality Programming of the Global Project Please be advised of AIRunning Applications Securely at Play with Restful Works ...... Heavenly Tasks. :-) ........

    The simple challenge, Rebecca, is for El Reg to receive more than just ...... Thank you! We will contact you as soon as possible....... in reply.

    Go West used to be the clarion call in the past for nearly all interested in creating worth and value. The way things are terrorised and petrified there nowadays leads all interested in creating wealth and value to travel far and wide Eastward for Novelty and Intelligence abhor both Ignorant and Arrogant Vacuums.

  15. Anonymous Coward

    Here's my idea...

    Re-train ONE MEEELLION pointless middle managers and consultants to actually make stuff.

    A country that doesn't make stuff is truly fucked.

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: Here's my idea...

      I wouldn't trust those guys to make stuff. At least not stuff that is actually working as advertised and perhaps useful to some degree.

      On the other hand, there are always streets thet need to get sweeped, litter to be picked up, public greens that need tidying, etc.

  16. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    "A country that doesn't make stuff is truly fucked."

    But, but, but.*

    The UK is TAKING BACK CONTROL (C Linton Kwesi Crosby 2017) of it's borders. Soon it will be able to (metaphorically) sail the world under its own command, being able to make its own trade deals with whoever it wants (or does not, as the case may be) to.

    Granted there may be a few mass redundancies staff adjustments but at last Albion will be free of the yoke of the hated Brussels Jack boot (or should that be Jacques boot?).

    Shouldn't you be thrilled at the prospect?

    (C Rabid Xenophobia Publications T/A The Daily Heil)

    *IRL you are quite correct. Time will tell who is right, just as you find out if there really is a $deity about 1 second after you die, and can do f**k all about changing things.

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