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Top Manufaturer, Paul Cadman, Interviewed on Topical Business Issues

Top manufacturer, Paul Cadman, was recently interviewed on some of the issues currently facing manufacturing and how they may impact on businesses on the B46. Paul has received a number of accolades including one of Manufacturing Magazine's Top 100 most inspiring and influential individuals in Manufacturing; finalist in EY's Entrepreneur of the Year, 2016; West Midlands Business Masters Manufacturer of the Year, 2016; and Acquisition International's Most Innovative UK Leader for 2016. Paul has been a spokesperson on manufacturing for the region’s Chambers of Commerce.

What are the big issues facing manufacturing at the moment?
There are some obvious ones like Brexit, skills and transport, and some other issues that are less apparent such as the Combined Authority, Industrial Strategy and rebalancing the UK economy.

What are your views on Brexit?
The public has spoken and their wish has to be acted upon. However, we do seem to be making a meal of the process of exiting. I understand that negotiations will be complex but we seem to be fixated on Government leading the way rather than increasing our exports to new world markets. A reduction in sterling means that our products are more attractive so instead of feuding with the EU why aren’t we unleashing the potential of the world’s best manufacturers into the global marketplace. Once foreign businesses find out how our goods and services are, they will put pressure on their own governments to come up with mutually beneficial trade deals.

You mentioned skills and transport: what are the issues facing manufacturing?
We have about 5% unemployment at the moment so it means those who are not currently working, are not likely to have the skills businesses need now. Putting aside the issue about zero hours contracts and terms and conditions in general, there is no slack in the system. Employers are totally reliant on school leavers and college or university graduates. One of the local Chambers of Commerce did a survey that showed that 72% of businesses owners thought that school leavers were not fit for work. For college leavers it was 34% and graduates 37%. Whatever we are teaching in schools, colleges and universities, it is not matching with what employers need, and need now. We really need to look at the how we give targets to education because passing tests is not doing anything to help the employability of our young people. Now we are stuck in the situation that Brexit may cut the free flow of talent from the EU and the Home Office require that we must pay non-EU workers a minimum of £35,000 a year. I am all in favour of giving local talent a priority but we now have a situation where growing businesses cannot find the talent they need to fulfil existing contracts. How can we grow the economy if we are constrained in this way? Transport in the West Midlands is appalling and is as a result of short term thinking by local authorities who have been forced to become insular in their thinking. We have the perfect airport to take up the pressure from a congested South and our existing rail infrastructure, if used properly, could take a lot of cars off the road. We must give freight priority.

How is the Combined Authority going to help manufacturing?
In May 2017 we will have a Mayor and that person is responsible for the West Midlands. We have never had a single point of responsibility before. I have been working with one of the candidates and I have made it clear that raising business rates must be a last resort and only done when businesses are showing increased profits as a result of reduced congestion and cheaper energy. The deal we are getting from government leaves us with a £4 billion shortfall. Our Mayor must be able to squeeze a better deal from Government to help us with education and transport. Getting the same kind of deal as Transport for London gets would be a great start.

What you say to local business leaders in this area?
The first thing I would say is to get to know your Mayoral candidates. Businesses have not had a sufficiently loud voice within the devolution debate. Locally we have a microcosm of businesses types that mirrors the wider West Midlands: specialist component manufacturers along with associated service sector companies. All of these would benefit from support to enter the wider geographic markets and from a supply of home grown talent.

Last modified on Wednesday, 07 December 2016 11:54

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