15th Annual Conference: Investment in Skills and Productivity

Better training as the key to economic dynamism

Europe as a whole recognises that a high-skill, high-productivity economy provides the most effective platform to boost competitiveness and enhance well-being. As Peter Loescher, Chief Executive of Siemens AG, put it at the Annual Dinner of the German-British Chamber of Industry and Commerce on 9 June 2010 in London; “We have to get the message across to our youngsters in schools and universities that we need to out-innovate the innovators all over the world.”

GERMAN INDUSTRY UK (GIUK) has been at the forefront of efforts by German businesses in the UK to attempt to provide in Britain a framework similar to the German Dual Training System. GIUK has held constructive meetings with Ministers from both the Labour government and the new Conservative-Liberal coalition administration and has now set up a working group within the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

The new UK government has made tackling the skills gap a significant priority in its efforts to spur economic renewal. There is considerable interest in learning lessons from Germany, where equipping the workforce with competitive skills through the vaunted apprenticeship and vocational training system, in partnership with industry, has long been a centre-piece of economic policy.

The presence of a large number of German companies in the UK has added impetus. Underlining this point, Robert Bosch, BMW, EON and Siemens are all giving support to the conference. The gathering will highlight the role of the Technician Council, a new body set up in the UK to promote a new non-academic route to technical excellence for employees in many different fields.

The conference addresses a number of pressing macro- and micro-economic themes:

•How can modern European economies find the best training solutions for keeping abreast with demand for sophisticated, high-quality output in manufacturing and services? How is Europe facing up to the task of assembling a high-skill, high-productivity society as set down under the objectives of the 2020 Lisbon programme? What role should training and personnel development play to achieve this?

•How can countries find the right balance between manufacturing and non-manufacturing to ensure growth and living standards at a time when the demarcation lines between manufacturing and services are increasingly blurred?

•How can the UK learn from experience in Germany, especially in lowering the cost and increasing the effectiveness of training? What is the evidence from Germany that a better-trained workforce will help the whole economy become more resilient in a downturn and more flexible in an upturn?

•What are the concrete steps needed to upgrade the status of engineers and ensure that the right streams of young people from schools and further education establishments reach the engineering profession? What should be the thrust and purpose of the Technician Council, how achievable is its objectives, how will it organise its funding and its qualifications practices and how can it best garner broad support?