During his speech at the annual Conservative Party conference in Birmingham today, Prime Minister David Cameron focused heavily on the UK needing to invest in technology and infrastructure to ensure a strong economic recovery.
However, details regarding specific policies and funding to support such initiatives are still vague, which is likely to fuel scepticism from the opposition, especially given recent announcements regarding slugging economic growth and a renewed focus on cutting welfare benefits.
Cameron pointed to the Olympics as recent evidence of what the UK can achieve, but quickly followed this praise by saying that we “mustn’t let that warm glow give us a false sense of security”.
He said: “All around the world, countries are on the rise. Yes, we’ve been hearing about China and India for years, but it’s hard to believe what’s happening in Brazil, in Indonesia, in Nigeria too. Meanwhile, the old powers are on the slide.
“What do the countries on the rise have in common? They are lean, fit, obsessed with enterprise, spending money on the future – on education, incredible infrastructure and technology.”
He added: “And what do the countries on the slide have in common? They’re fat, sclerotic, spending money on unaffordable welfare systems, huge pension bills, unreformed public services.”
Cameron then went on to pledge that he is not going to allow the UK to ‘join the slide’.
He said: “My job – our job – is to make sure that in this twenty first century, as in the centuries that came before, our country, Britain, is on the rise.”
Geoffrey Taylor, head of business analytics firm SAS’ academic programme, was particularly disparaging about Cameron’s speech. He believes that the Conservatives should be looking to invest in key skills to drive growth in the UK’s technology industry.
There is a growing concern that the UK is going to suffer a technical skills shortage, which has led to a number of reforms and initiatives in the education sector to get students to study STEM subjects.
Taylor said: “David Cameron’s speech today did not go far enough. Although he is spot on to pick out countries like Brazil, China and India for their investment in education and technology, Cameron failed to highlight the importance of skills if the UK is to avoid being left behind in these crucial areas.
“Technology innovation in particular must play a huge part in the future of the UK economy. It’s no secret that the tech industry finds it difficult to hire people with the right skills – especially in areas such as Maths, Science and Statistics - and this poses a serious threat to growth.”
He added: “If we don’t act now to up-skill our workforce, we’ll end up losing out to countries like China and India, where the level of investment in tech skills is on the rise.”