7 December, 2021

A better skills future – but not tomorrow

04 November, 2021

The recent Government push into addressing skills shortages in the UK is welcome – but is it too late, asks Chris Buxton, outgoing CEO, the British Fluid Power Association


Since the turn of the last century, one of the biggest inhibitors to business growth in the UK, has been a shortage of suitably skilled workers with the right work ethic. It’s not popular to say so, and few politicians would dare to say it, but it is a fact of business life. Trade Associations such as the BFPA and its sister associations in the engineering and machinery alliance (EAMA) have been lobbying on this issue for many years, so the recent renewed interest from the Government in finally seeking to openly address this issue, is only to be welcomed.

Acknowledging the problem

It may have taken Brexit driving overseas workers back home and a pandemic of mammoth proportions to catalyse it, but let’s resist the temptation to be cynical. We should celebrate the fact that somebody in Government is finally acknowledging the problem publicly and is seeking to put policies in place to address it. But is it too late? Is the Prime Minister’s utopian vision of a highly paid, highly skilled workforce in a highly productive, low tax economy realistic?

Irrespective of one’s political leanings, we can all agree that it is a positive goal. A better skills future – but not tomorrow The recent Government push into addressing skills shortages in the UK is welcome – but is it too late, asks Chris Buxton, outgoing CEO, the British Fluid Power Association. The BFPA is entirely apolitical and represents its members from all sides of the political ‘polygon’. However, if we are to address the skills crisis, which our members cite every time there is a discussion about the state of business, we do have to remain practical and realistic. Unlike our political masters, we are not trying to garner votes, we are trying to solve a problem for our members.

There is no doubt that a more highly skilled workforce should be rewarded with higher salaries. Given their enhanced skills, one would hope that they would also be more productive, therefore helping their employer to generate more income to fund the increased salary burden (a good work ethic permitting). If a company is generating more revenue, the tax receipts going into the Government Treasury will be higher and this in turn should reduce the pressure to raise taxes, even against the backdrop of enormous debt built-up during the pandemic.

Worthy aspiration

If we are paying lower taxes, we will have more money in our pockets to spend on luxury goods, and in a service-dominated economy such as we have in the UK this can only further increase company revenues and accelerate this wealth generating cycle. It has to be a worthy aspiration and should attract support from all colours in the political spectrum. So, where is the possible flaw in this seemingly utopian ideal? The answer lies in the fact that it relies 100% upon the short-term availability of suitably skilled workers with a good work ethic.




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