UK must learn from Germany: Cameron
Britain must learn lessons from Germany if it is to plug a skills deficit that threatens the future competitiveness of British industry, David Cameron has said.
He urged schools, colleges and businesses to take a "more Germanic approach" by consulting on what skills were most needed in the next generation of workers.
The Prime Minister spoke out after being challenged on a visit to a car parts plant over what he was doing to ensure UK firms could compete in the future.
Firms were warning ministers that the supply of newly trained engineers and mechanics and other skilled staff was failing to keep up with rapid expansions in business, he said. But he insisted that part of the answer lay with bosses themselves doing more to ensure the education system understood their priorities.
"As we try and reindustrialise our country, some companies like yours are expanding so fast they are saying to us, 'we can't find the engineers, we can't find the mechanics and other skills'," he said during a question and answer session at car seat and electricals firm Lear in Redditch.
"There is no simple, easy answer to this because you can't create an engineer overnight. You've got to go right back in the school system, which is what we are doing, and say, 'right, are we encouraging kids to study the right subjects?'."
He went on: "There was a time when local colleges were just looking up to government and saying, 'right, what courses shall we study in order to tick all your boxes?' We are saying, 'forget that, instead of looking up to the government, get out there and meet with the companies and find out what they want you to train people up into'."
Firms also had to "get into the local colleges, get into the local schools and tell them what it is you want", he suggested. "We need frankly to have a more Germanic approach to that skills deficit. I think we will crack it but it will take time."
Action is required to address a decline in the numbers of pupils taking subjects such as science and technology and mathematics and have a more "rigorous" system, he told workers.
"We need to reverse that so we have to plan all the way through education, first of all to make sure it is rigorous - so people are studying single sciences not combined sciences which aren't as rigorous - encouraging top graduates to go into maths teaching so we inspire kids in school."