ICAS on pillars 2 and 3 of the industrial strategy

Brexit Insights
By David Wood, Executive Director, Policy Leadership and James Barbour, Director, Policy Leadership

30 January 2017

The Prime Minister has launched proposals for a new modern industrial strategy for the UK. The strategy comprises 10 key strategic pillars, pillars 2 and 3 are analysed below.

Pillar 2: Developing skills

This is fundamental, to ensure that the right skills are available within the economy. However, this  is a policy that successive UK Governments have been pursuing – with questionable success.

How will we train people in the right employable skills for the future where flexibility, adaptability and practicality may be as important as specific expertise? Moreover, how do we train people to be entrepreneurial and innovative?  

Brexit has highlighted the UK’s dependence on immigrants in certain sectors, both skilled and unskilled, which in turn reflects our past failure to educate and train within the UK for the skills and manpower we now need.

The focus on boosting STEM is welcomed, but this was already something the Government had been seeking to do. Building a new system of technical education to benefit young people who do not go to university is essential.

In many regards this is a ‘Back to the Future’ type policy where in the past, school leavers regularly left school to undertake more practical job-based training whether in employment or not. There is a real need to ensure that there are opportunities for school leavers to benefit from such practical-based training –aligned with the skills needs of the economy.

We also welcome the realisation of the need for lifelong learning. A key feature of the accountancy profession is the need for continued professional development – this requirement applies across society and is even more relevant nowadays as the younger generation will most likely change their role more frequently than the previous generations.

Pillar 3. Upgrading infrastructure

As the Government highlights, progress has already been made in relation to upgrading infrastructure. A final decision to go ahead with a third runway at Heathrow has been made and plans for the construction of the HS2 continue.

There is also a need to ensure that the devolved administrations and local authorities are properly joined up on developments, such as extending HS2 to Scotland and smaller scale local projects.

Of course, all major infrastructure projects need to be subject to appropriate cost/benefit analysis and environmental impacts need to be considered – but the UK seems notoriously slow at getting big or future-proofing infrastructure off the ground. Could this process be better streamlined?

While we welcome the importance being placed by the Government on the UK’s digital infrastructure and related data infrastructure, there are currently proposals which could have a negative impact on business in the UK. For example, HMRC’s ‘Making Tax Digital’ agenda sets out to be transformational but its unrealistically short timescale could distract and damage the small and medium sized business sector.


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