back to article Gov: High-tech engineering (car making) will save Blighty

More news from the British government's push to revitalise the economy through high tech today, as the Trade and Investment Minister - a former banker - briefed reporters on a new national marketing effort for UK "advanced engineering". In essence, the government want to let the British people - in particular the …


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  1. Liam Johnson


    >>go on to qualify in technical disciplines at university

    But who is actually going to do the work? Instead of producing millons of half backed engnieers, they should be looking at getting more people with real vocational skills.

    Take a look at Germany - it is not a stigma to learn a hands on skill instead of going to university. Germany actually has manufacturing industries, so it might be worth following that example.

  2. Michael


    The batteries in these cars will come with a 20 year warranty, and be inherently recyclable?

    Mine's the cycling jacket.

  3. Steve

    leccy tech!

    Ok he's on the right track, but no one wants a new car, what we need is a decent cheap electric car industry, you know? Something people will want to buy!

  4. Bunglebear

    Technical careers

    Noble has hit the nail bang on the head. Us highly qualified technical types, which keep advanced engineering running, are fed up with receiving ignorant orders from highly paid managers and their 2:2 in business studies from Kingston Poly. Highly skilled techies are vital and managers treat them beneath contempt; perhaps some fusion of the career streams within large companies would make things better.

  5. George

    What no mention of defence?

    I thought that was going to safeguard jobs, the defense (the s because our biggest contractor is really from US of A these days) industry is always the governments cornerstone for high-tech industries but barely a mention here.

    Lets face this idea is dead in the water since they are looking far too long term, kids can't behave let alone learn at the moment.

    Anyway, Dear Government, to save the economy how about getting some of those banks you own to actually lend some money. Ok it may mean some of your old mates have to do some work to calculate risks rather than the all or nothing approach we are used to but hey, that's what friends are for.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    And this is the problem

    Japan makes cars using robots.

    We subsidize our car industry *because* it provides jobs for people.

    Tech industry doesn't, really. Not blue-collar people. Tech industry only needs white-collar people and where's the political capital in that? It's not like the middle class is large or anything.

    Ironically, if our car industry is to remain competitive, those blue-collar jobs have to go in favour of cheap robot labour. But the government would never subsidize that.

    Basically the govt equation must be "is it cheaper to subsidize or to pay dole to a bunch of out-of-work blue-collars?" White-collars get other jobs; blue-collars go on the dole and moan on ITV about how hard it is to find work when you have no skills.

  7. Neil Hoskins

    Excuse my cynicism...

    ... but I remember Thatcher spouting off about the "sunrise industries". The argument was that she was going to shut the unprofitable shipyards and steelworks and offer support instead to the industries that had a future. Well I was in a sunrise industry at the time (III-V semiconductors) and my career still went down the pan. It's just political bullshit and anybody taken in by it is an idiot.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "The sector is worth over £4.5 billion and the UK is one of Europe's top five automotive manufacturing countries."

    German automotive is worth 157 billion euros for comparison.

    "With six of the world's top ten vehicle makers and 19 of the top 20 auto parts makers having a UK manufacturing presence, the country is a global centre of excellence."

    None of them British, Nissan, Toyota, BMW, etc. none of them British.

    "ITM Power has developed a low-cost electroloyser that converts renewable energy or off-peak electricity into hydrogen used to fuel a car."

    13p a share, lost almost all their value:

    Look, when you start including toilet manufacturers as high tech industry (read the ceramics section) you're clutching at straws. Ultimately Britain's problem is that it's not in the Euro zone so there is a trade barrier to the rest of Europe, and it's not in the Schengen zone so there is a movement barrier (even dutch MPs can't be sure to get into UK), it has a low low quality of life index, so it's not pleasant to live or work there.

    If you are a highly skilled engineer, I would suggest you start looking at emigrating to mainland Europe. The life style is better, the Euro is stronger, there are systematic advantages to being in mainland Europe, and you don't have to suffer the Jacqui Smiths of this world.

    If you are a major industry, then you should look to shift your European base out of the UK and into proper Europe. Without the oil and without the property market and without the London finance markets they have nothing but scraps.

  9. Robin Baker

    And of course... the money

    There's little point training for years and then being stuffed because there's no real money in production. Us engineers have seen an effective pay freeze for the last decade or so in real terms while we watch the 'city types' walk away with the loot.

    Bitter, me, no not at all.


  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I think I heard this speech already

    Something about a Britain being forged in the white heat of a revolution which would be no place for restrictive practices or for outdated measures on either side of industry. Anyone know what happened with that?

  11. Sarev

    Thanks, Banker

    So we have a banker telling us we should really be training up in engineering. And where does the wealth a company generates go? Not to the engineers, that's for sure. So a banker wants more galley-slaves to generate wealth for him and others like him, shock.

  12. Nigel Wright

    @Neil Hoskins

    With you there! I was in silicon and GaAs. Where has it all gone?

  13. Nigel Wright

    There is no room in UK PLC for good engineers

    ...we are treated with contempt and paid a pittance.

    I used to work in semiconductors. CPU and DRAM production....more leading edge than most people could ever imagine. The UK used to be a leader in this industry, but we threw it away through indifference and apathy. Then we attracted lots of companies to the UK who established excellent manufacturing facilities.....and we threw that away as well.

    The UK as a whole doesn't GAFF about engineering, hi-tech engineering or the high-quality jobs and wealth it creates. Many of my colleagues have left the country as a result, I stayed because I didn't fancy working in the far east. Since then, I have found it harder and harder to make a living as an engineer in this country because our manufacturing and engineering base has continued implode. What the suits forget is that manufacturing creates wealth and quality jobs that no amount of Subway or McDonalds "restaurants" will replace.

  14. Ian Underhill

    No its not the problem, well not quite

    @ AC

    FYI I think if you do the research you will find that the British Car plants, Toyota, Nissan and Honda, are at the very top of the efficiency world wide and are therefore competitive. To say we need to get rid of the workers in place of robots and all will be well is simply nonsense.

    Its only worth replacing a human with a robot if....

    a) you can do the task with a robot (not always possible)

    b) it is cost effective (vision systems required to match even the village idiots abilities are expensive and complex).

    c) the resulting process is better, more repeatable or more reliable.

    Its Return On Investment that counts. Unlike the muppets that run Ford, GM and Chrysler here in the States, the Jap's have a very good handle on ROI and overall costs, paying more and saving money is not mutually exclusive and the Jap's understand that.

  15. John Smith Gold badge

    A minister writes*

    "As I teenager I thought about what would get me shed loads of money quickly. I asked about and most people said that the quickest route was not to actually make stuff as that was risky and usually did not have a very high return. What I should do (they said) was get large chuncks of money off others or convince someone something was worth a lot more money than what I bought it for.

    My career in banking was a triumph and the friends I made there have even helped me out when I "Felt like a change of career" (TM) when our economy hit the buffers due to circumstances outside our (IE bankers) control.

    Thats why I'm urging you, the "kids" of Britain to sturdy for more technical degrees.

    Sure my average annual bonus for greasing a few deals was larger than a decade of your salaries my job had the respect of all my neighbours and all my children went to expensive schools and a hot wife with near unlimited expense accounts.

    Those days won't come back for bankers for months. And I never really understood what all those internet companies did, even when I was pumping all that money into them.

    You'll have more of a sense of achievement than I ever did. Don't just go and look up the UK Borders Agencie's list of shortage occupations and train because they are likely to pay well. Think about what you can contribute to this country.

    *As dictated by some PR type for a piece in a newspaper probably.

  16. Eddy Ito

    British cars??

    It makes me wonder, does he really mean Tata's Jaguar and Land Rover or SAIC's MG?

  17. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    A view from below

    I'm whats described as 'blue collar' (actually its a red with blue and white lines checked collar) and it makes me laugh to suddenly see the government spouting off about 'high tech' manufacturing.

    Where are we going to get the trainees? from your schools with the curiculum dumbed down so that anybody can get an A or perhaps your vision of manufacturing is still the assembly lines full of people just doing 1 job(barely)

    I'm a fairly typical industrial robot programmer/setter/techie type

    It takes 4 years of apprenticeship(or so)

    4 years of learning howto set/program/fault find the things

    Stir in good PC skills to use the software for generating control programs

    A dash of workload /personel planning

    All for which I earn the princely sum of 20K/yr, even at best with more experience I'd barely make 25K/yr

    Or I could do A levels followed by a degree in media studies and jump straight in the jobs market after 5 yrs learning with a good chance of earning 22K a yr as a starting rate

    Lets see...... which career option looks better...

  18. Charles Manning


    That's the unfortunate reality of the modern world.

    Developing a brand and media presences and designing a sticker to go on Made In China goods makes a lot more money than actually making the goods. Therefore there is going to be more demand/better pay for the media/PR types than for the greasy shop floor worker. The media/PR job might only require the vaguest skills, but it is making more money and hence can get paid more.

    The whole school system and university system is also on board with this too. It is vastly simpler to teach media studies than technical skills and does not require any special equipment. Just get the kids to write a report about the video the watched. Extra credits for being "cutting edge" and writing the report in text speak.

    Universities get paid to stamp out graduates so they're clearly going to take the simplest path.

    Is there a solution to this? Buggered if I know.

  19. Anonymous Coward

    Hope no one here is planning on retraining

    'Cos the government, in all its wisdom, has decided to cut funding for people with existing degrees who choose to go back to university (full or part time) and pick up the new skills needed for a changing workplace.

    John Denham and his underlings are trying to weasel their way to the 50% of people will have degrees number by switching money to people without qualifications and trying to persuade them to take courses in combined childcare and golf course management. Their thinking is that employers will step in and pay for training - forgetting that a: there's a depression on at the moment, and b: employers often won't pay to train their staff so that they can leave for better jobs.

    It'll mean many courses will *AT LEAST* double in price for existing graduates and many universities will cut courses as reduced numbers will make them unviable. So what's left will be largely unaffordable.

    And yes, IT is one of the areas worst affected by this proposal.

    Anon, cos I work in further education and this policy is going to be disastrous, not just for universities, but for the country as a whole.

  20. James Hughes


    Interesting to see that being mentioned. Of course, that going to reduce now since the Croft circuit court case which has implications for the whole MS industry. In short, someone moved next to the circuit, which has been there for years, got p****d off with the noise. Sued, and won £150k. Green light to anyone next to a circuit to sue for noise issues, even if they have only just moved there. Circuits go out of business. Motorsport has nowhere to test, forced to move abroad. Excellent work there.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ihr lustigen kleinen Briten

    British car industry?

    Well, me, as a German, I always admired British humour. But using the word "industry" for a few foreign-owned factories that don't even amount to 3% of the German car industry... I'd laugh if it wasn't so pitiful.

  22. Anonymous Coward

    @boris & charles

    I would not worry to much about the "media graduates" as to my knowledge quite a few of those including their friends who are "computing graduates" etc are to be found working at the till in your local ASDA, B&Q and similar. I know graduates who are still unemployed two years after their graduation. It is quite possibly so that some people prefer to hire graduates just because they are graduates - but generally speaking such an attitude will punish itself in the long term. The reason is obvious as there are far too many people with degrees which are nothing but pretentious certificates. Obviously some graduates have made an effort and developed competencies even though the UK world of higher education appear to be a world class leader in sabotaging the development of real competencies of UK students.

    The problem is not that there are too many graduates educated in the UK - but rather - that those who are graduates have been educated soo poorly that their abilities to develop appropriate competencies have been sabotaged. This is especially true when dealing with realities in the context of a future within their own area of "expertise". There are far too many graduates who are just not equipped with a satisfactory level of even basic subject competence upon which required professional skills can be built later in life.

    In our pretentious UK rush to push the UK population through university degrees we have developed academic practices which are firmly rooted in massive denial of academic integrity and subject quality focus.

  23. amanfromMars Silver badge

    AIRewrite .....Re: A minister writes*

    Nice clear succinct post, John Smith ...[Posted Wednesday 11th March 2009 17:58 GMT]

    And I love your optimism ....." Those days won't come back for bankers for months." and would just suggest that none doubt the changed reality of the situation which would categorically state instead those days won't come back for bankers at all, thanks to what they did and to maybe also to what they didn't really understand and which may or may not be related to ...."And I never really understood what all those internet companies did, even when I was pumping all that money into them."

    My own understanding and personal experience, and personal experience is an immaculate teacher, is that pumping money into internet companies and/or Virtually Real InterNetworking IDEntities, which are essentially the Same only completely Different, is something which they neither do nor understand and thus are they, Bankers in their Current Crocked and/or Crooked Form, Unfit for Future Purpose.

    However, they are being Offered Unlimited Network InterNetworking Assistance, 42Guarantee themselves against Catastrophic Failure and Mob Rule and TakeOver/MakeOver, and on XXXXStreamly Attractive Terms too, to Fully Protect the Integrity of the Institution, which can be so Cynically Personally Used and Abused like a Slave.

    And although I have it on very good authority that they do have great difficulty in seeing clearly and thus need to have everything spelled out in BIG Letters/longer emails XXXXPlaining the MasterPilot Plan and its IT Spin Off Projects/Multilateral Credit Arrangements rather than Collateralised Debt Obligations, Stupidity only Persists whenever Good Men and Women do Nothing, and those days are gone for months and won't ever be back, ever again. So Be Prepared, there's Something Thundering in the AIR and ITs Clapping New Men and Women, and IT aint Waiting for Tomorrow when Everyday as Today has Everything IT Needs to Feed.

    I trust that is not ambiguous.

  24. MinionZero

    They have sold off most of UK engineering for their own profit.

    I had a 4 apprenticeship and for the past more than 20 years, I have looked on dismayed at how the UK has consistently outsourced and sold off British manufacturing. Now half way though my career, at times I've sadly felt like I'm part of the last generation of UK engineers, watching the final stages of the closing down of UK engineering. I like many engineers come from a family background in engineering. My father, grand father and great grandfather were all into engineering. If they could have seen the past few decades, I am in no doubt they would have been as shocked and dismayed as me at what is happening to the UK. At the current rate, what is going to be left for the next generation of UK engineers. Probably the most poignant moment I've experienced was watching the Antiques Roadshow, when one of the experts sadly mentioned in passing, that the Made In Britain label was from a bygone era now consigned to the history books. While we do still have some small engineering capability remaining in the UK (for now), that simply provides the rich Plutocratic leaders with a thin lie to hide behind. We have lost the vast majority of UK engineering.

    The British engineering heritage that was built up for centuries even before the Victorian era has been systematically sold off and wiped out by the ruling elite for their profit. Now the overpaid, close minded, arrogant, ruling elite want to marketing UK advanced engineering. It is their kind and their ignorant greed that have run UK engineering down for decades, in their rush to extract profits from outsourcing and sell off the UK, with no thought of building for the future.

  25. DR


    "Universities get paid to stamp out graduates so they're clearly going to take the simplest path."

    Ummm, clearly you don't know what you;re talking about.

    Universities are paid tutition fees, regardless of how many people graduate, people pay for their learning, not the certificate at the end. regardless of whether you pass or fail you pay the same amount.

    In fact those that fail would usually re-take a year or more of studies, universities could make more money by not passing more people.

    "Or I could do A levels followed by a degree in media studies and jump straight in the jobs market after 5 yrs learning with a good chance of earning 22K a yr as a starting rate"

    You REALLY think that?

    could it be that UK engineering is in decline because all the UK engineers are self important self righteous idiots who spend their days surfing the internet rather than actually working?

    ok perhaps that was over the top.

    but as someone else pointed out above, nobody is guaranteed a job regardless of what they do as a degree subject.

    as it is I think that everyone knows of or has heard of a "designer" that has some degree in a bachelor of arts that gets paid ten times as much as the bachelor, (or even master) or engineering that they'd grew up with just for drawing swirls all day.

    but then I challenge you to actually do that? go on, draw a logo, lets see how successful it is, don't believe me that it's shit? show it to some honest friends.

    I have friends who graduated in media subject who are now flipping burgers. whilst I'm earning more doing a job in IT.

    To be honest I believe that the real reason that UK engineering is in decline is that it's difficult. it takes a long time to actually get good at, and a long time to progress through the industry. so a lot of people just don't bother.

    (and I say this as a graduate in engineering, who also managed to retain respect for other people and the work that they can do).

  26. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: title

    There aren't enough jobs in media for people who've been doing it for years, let alone the massive slew of chancers who thought a media studies degree would be a doss/fast track to being the next Charlie Brooker. They'll be lucky to get jobs filing the nails of semi-literate PRs.

  27. ElFatbob


    fine sounding plans. Only thing is, it will take a change in policy (away from 'clever' financial services back to manufacturing) and pots of money to cover the training, R&D and support manufacturing will need to get 'back up there'.

    Only problem is, there is actually no political will for the former and no money for the latter (cause we've given it all to the banks)

  28. John Smith Gold badge

    Britain does have a space agency.

    of sorts. Its called the British National Space Centre an runs a theme park in Leicester. Its not an actual agency as such as it gets its staff and budget from the various Research Councils, and I think some of the specialist laboratories and the MoD also chip in (when they''re flush).

    it seemed to be more of a buyers club for funding sats and lauches, usually piggyback on some US or Ariane launch.

    However it recently appears to have actually put money into launcher projects. A big shift from their previous stance, which could be described as "we make the birds. Launching them is so terribly common. Those nice Americans/Europeans/Indians/Iranians/Italians (TBC)/North Koreans can sort us out."

    AFAIK the UK is the only country that developed both nuclear weapons and orbital launch and decided to give one up. South Africa appears to be the only nuclear power which voluntarily disarmed after testing (V. difficult to confirm this).


    Boy, have those nukes come in handy. Oh yes. If we lost in Borneo, Indonesia, Oman, Aden, Oman (again), Northern Ireland, the Falklands, Kuwait, Iraq or Afghanistan the ability to flash fry any of those places and put the "Scorched" into scorched earth policy would no doubt prove invaluable in showing Johny foreigner that we are *really* sore losers. £10bn. Cheap at twice (or more likely 3x) the price.


    Mines the one with a copy of the paperback edition of "Who dares wins" by Tony Geherety.

  29. John Smith Gold badge


    "And I love your optimism"

    Well it did have a Joke Alert icon. Although I've always had the impression that fat cats don't like to be deprived of their cream for too long. Perhaps I'm a bit cynical but some how some old school/university/golf/masonic lodge/satanic coven/brothel mate of theirs sorts them out with a nice little earner.

    Praise from amfm. I will enjoy it while it while it lasts.

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