INVESTMENT in manufacturing and training young people to work in highly-skilled jobs is the key to Burnley’s long-term economic success.
That was the positive message from Business Secretary Vince Cable when he visited the town on Monday.
In a speech to business leaders, students and teachers at Burnley College and university campus in Princess Way, Mr Cable said the Government was investing heavily in plugging the skills gap in the manufacturing industry, and making it easier for successful businesses to expand.
He was in Burnley to open the UK Manufacturing Dialogue: North West Summit, hosted by the town’s MP Gordon Birtwistle, which is part of a programme of events seeking to highlight the value of the manufacturing sector as a major part of the UK economy.
Mr Cable was full of praise for the £80m. college and university campus in Princess Way, and said it represented the future of vocational education.
He said: “I think what’s happened in recent decades is we’ve got used to the idea got used to is that if you want to progress in life, you got to university and get a degree.
“We are totally trying to change that psychology.”
Mr Cable said the perception of the decline of British manufacturing did not apply to the North West, with many successful hi-tech companies bucking the trend.
“There are companies which should be slaying that myth of British manufacturing.
“The North West is home to 800 aerospace companies which, on their own, contribute £7bn to the British economy.
“All developed countries have seen a decline in their manufacturing industries as a share of their economies.
“But in this country, the decline of manufacturing over the last decade was more rapid, more abrupt and more damaging than it was in other parts of the developed world.
“There’s a psychology that we don’t produce anything any more. That’s not true.
“We have successful manufacturing companies who are world beating.
“The average non-aerospace job in Lancashire contributes £15,000 in gross value added, this is £75,000 in aerospace.
“High-value manufacturing is the way to go for the UK and for Lancashire in particular.”
He also praised Lancashire companies such as BAE Systems for the quality of their apprenticeships, but said more work was needed to plug the skills gap.
After addressing the summit, Mr Cable answered questions and took part in a panel session with business leaders, before ending his visit with a trip to Aircelle, in Bancroft Road.