25 Jun 2024

Spring Budget: A fine balancing act

Skills shortage

The response from industry leaders to the UK Chancellor’s Spring Budget reflects a mix of appreciation and concern.

EngineeringUK expressed its appreciation for the government’s declared commitment to investing in critical sectors such as engineering and technology, as well as its support for Small to Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) through initiatives like the Green Industries Growth Accelerator (GIGA). The acknowledgment of the UK’s burgeoning presence in the global technology landscape, likening it to Silicon Valley, evoked a sense of pride shared by many within these sectors.

However, amid the commendations lies some disappointment. EngineeringUK’s Head of Policy & Public Affairs, Beatrice Barleon, highlighted a critical gap in the budget’s focus – the need to invest in skilling the future workforce. The absence of concerted efforts to address the shortage of STEM teachers and the consequent impact on young people’s STEM education raises concerns about the UK’s ability to sustain its competitive edge in these crucial sectors. Without a steady influx of skilled young individuals emerging from the education system, businesses may find themselves hampered in their growth trajectories compared to global counterparts.

Furthermore, Barleon emphasised the vital role of apprenticeships as crucial training routes for young people aged 16-19, calling for a clear and adequately funded STEM skills plan. This plan, she suggests, should encompass investments in career outreach, education, and sustained funding for STEM teacher professional development. It’s a call for a holistic approach to addressing the skills gap, ensuring that the workforce of tomorrow is equipped to navigate the complexities of the modern technological landscape.

Other industry leaders such as Stephen Phipson, Chief Executive of Make UK, acknowledged the budget’s incremental steps towards recognising manufacturing as a linchpin of the future economy. Phipson pointed to the extension of full expensing to leased assets as a boon, particularly for smaller companies within the manufacturing sector. However, he also underscored the need for swift action in translating these announcements into tangible legislative measures, urging the government to expedite the drafting of legislation to make these benefits permanent.

The reaction from industry reflects the cautiously optimistic mood about the strides being made but aware of the hurdles that remain. While there is recognition of the government’s efforts to bolster key sectors and support SMEs, there is also a resounding call for a more comprehensive approach to addressing the skills gap and fostering sustained growth. As the budget’s impact unfolds, it remains to be seen how these concerns will be addressed and whether the government’s vision for a thriving, innovative economy will come to fruition.

Company info: Smart Futures