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The government needs to create a million new jobs in technical disciplines by 2030, according to the Trade Union Congress (TUC).
With a focus on manufacturing in the UK, TUC said more needs to be done to create technology-related jobs which could keep the manufacturing sector more relevant.
In a report about the UK’s first outlined Industrial Strategy, Frances O’Grady, general secretary of TUC, highlighted the role manufacturing plays in the UK economy, claiming it makes up 10% of the UK economy’s output, and called for more jobs in manufacturing and other high-tech sectors.
“Put simply, governments have allowed manufacturing to decline. That has to stop. Instead, we need a government that believes in manufacturing, working with employers and unions, to meet the challenges ahead,” he said.
Although the government’s industrial strategy said it was focused on investment in artificial intelligence (AI), digital skills and infrastructure, TUC’s report claimed the strategy has “achieved very little” since it was announced in 2017.
TUC’s report said the government should be focused on technologies such as AI and renewable energy, with the aim of becoming one of the top digital economies in the world, adding that these two industries could be some of the areas where creating manufacturing roles would be the most plausible.
More should be done to develop employment opportunities, according to TUC, which demanded that at least a third of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) budget should be dedicated to ensuring investment in research and development is directed towards areas likely to produce employment opportunities.
As well as encouraging collaborations between businesses, trade unions and the government to ensure technology is available to more industries across the UK, TUC said local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) should develop “local growth strategies” to work with local trade unions to use an area’s specific strengths to promote growth.
In his blog post about TUC’s suggestions, Tim Page, TUC’s senior policy officer in the departments of economics and social affairs, said manufacturing is a vital part of the UK economy, which needs to utilise technology to reboot the sector.
“There are two common views of UK manufacturing. One looks back nostalgically and concludes Britain ‘doesn’t make anything anymore’. The other looks forward fearfully and concludes that, although the industry will survive, new technology means there will be fewer jobs,” he said.
A quarter of people in the UK expect their jobs to be affected by automation, with sectors such as manufacturing likely to be influenced heavily due to the high number of repetitive tasks that can be performed by AI. However, experts believe automation will end up creating more jobs than it eliminates.
TUC said two-thirds of those who will be in employment in 2030 are currently in the workforce, and will therefore need “mid-career” training to help them to maintain relevant skills as technology adoption continues to disrupt every industry. It also recommended that the government should provide personalised training budgets for those who need new skills.
Although the UK’s computing curriculum aims to provide people with the skills they need for future work, many believe it is not fit for purpose and that the education system should be more focused around lifelong learning.
TUC’s report also expresses concern that UK workers may be “sidelined” as the Industrial Strategy develops, and urged that unions are represented and considered as the government’s Industrial Strategy Council (ISC) develops deals for each sector in the UK.
Not only is there concern over the lack of technical skills that may be available in the UK after Brexit, but TUC said there is a concern for UK manufacturing workers as the UK develops its deal with the EU, adding that the “best option” for the UK would be to remain part of the EU single market.