It is becoming quite a list – the already lengthy one of the industries of tomorrow that this Tory government is doing little or nothing to support.
The signs of a lack of confidence in Brexit Britain’s economic strategy are everywhere. Just this week ARM, the Cambridge-based semiconductor and software design company which is one of very few huge technology success stories for the UK in recent years, announced that it would be listing – i.e. offering its shares for sale – on the New York market, instead of the London Stock Exchange.
Given the depth and breadth of high-tech financing and industry in the USA, this is hardly a surprise. Brexit has just made it more of a certainty. Hermann Hauser, the co-founder of ARM, says they picked New York because it “is a much deeper market than London… partially because of the Brexit idiocy the image of London has suffered a lot in the international community.”
Which says it all. If you are going to try to make a success of Brexit you at least need to listen to industries of the future and try to give them more of what they want, not less. But Rishi Sunak is failing to do that.
A major cause of this failure is the mad ideology of the government’s more rabid supporters who think the government cannot and must not “try to pick winners”. But when the world is changing rapidly and whole economies are moving at speed to new, green technologies it is not about picking winners but instead making the environment right for those industries to succeed.
On that very subject, an old friend sent me a survey from the specialist recruiting company PageGroup earlier this week. It makes for interesting, if disturbing reading.
It found that more than two-thirds of business leaders believe the country is heading toward a green skills shortage. This means that many businesses are struggling to find skilled staff in the areas of sustainable engineering and finance.
The solution to this emerging problem is obvious, as the report makes clear. “To ensure the UK succeeds in its green transition efforts, businesses, policy makers, and educational organisations must collaborate and invest in preparing the workforce,” it says. According to Joanna Bonnett, head of sustainability at PageGroup, “Doing so will create a pipeline of talent that is ready for the jobs of the future and tackle the green skills shortage, which, if not addressed, could drastically slow down net zero efforts.”
The industry and the government would be met with open arms because workers are also identifying this gap in the job market. A separate poll of 2,000 employed adults found a quarter are eyeing up a green job as their next career move, though many are unsure if they have the necessary skills.
Investing in getting people ready for green jobs should be a no-brainer. After all, going carbon-neutral is actual government policy. This training is exactly the kind of thing that government alone can coordinate, organise, and finance. Just letting firms or colleges create a series of random and haphazard schemes, courses and programmes is totally the wrong way to go about it and will mean that the UK misses out on yet another new technology, this time through a shortage of workers.
This is not about picking winners, it is about seeing which way the wind is blowing and taking advantage of it. Something that this government seems incapable of doing.