Express & Star comments: Future of manufacturing is pivotal
It is common knowledge that the region, as the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, has a proud manufacturing heritage.
And in recent years a great deal of effort has been put into making sure that manufacturing continues to play a central role in the region’s future.
Put simply, around here we have always been good at making things.
From parts for cars and aeroplanes, to chains and locks, to glass and jewellery, the list of things the region has produced over the years is endless.
Some industries have fallen by the wayside and there is understandably a push for the wider West Midlands to be at the forefront of new, greener industries. But in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, it is crucial that we do not allow our manufacturing base to ebb away.
Shropshire, the West Midlands and Staffordshire already have world-leading factories, such as Ricoh in Telford, JLR near Wolverhampton, Cadbury in Birmingham and JCB in Staffordshire.
Slightly more than one in 10 people are still employed in manufacturing, a figure that is significantly higher than the rest of the country.
But for the sector to survive into the future, the region desperately needs to develop a strategy that protects firms and their workers over the long term.
Let us not forget, these past few months have brought the very best out of our manufacturing firms.
We have seen local businesses excel in initiatives such as the Ventilator Challenge and the production of PPE for hospital staff and other health workers. We know the talent and efficiency is out there.
But at this moment in time it is questionable just how resilient the sector is.
Today calls have been made for a regional commission – featuring representatives from industry, academia and local government – to look at the future for manufacturing. It certainly sounds like a step in the right direction. This needs to be done, not next year or the year after, but now.
Otherwise there is a serious risk that a second wave of Covid-19 will make the task even harder.