German model an inspiration

Vince Middleton
Vince Middleton
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Why look to Germany?

As I sit and watch a German driver in a German car win the German Grand Prix I reflect back one week when I saw Germany win the World Cup. Is there a lesson to be learned from their approach to sport and industry?

The week before I was in a German hotel that was giving away a free German beer for each goal Germany scored. They were playing Brazil – the bar staff had to concede defeat after the first 20 minutes.

I was visiting four companies in the Baden-Wurttemberg region, a region with a GDP bigger than Thailand and just behind Austria. The manufacturing share is more than 30 per cent while we struggle closer to 10 per cent.

You start to appreciate why they are so good at business and sport. The companies I visited were family firms with strong values and belief.

They do not stop growing because they have comfortable lifestyles, they just keep putting money into business. We have a lot of family firms in the Sheffield City Region, but I doubt I could find four whose turnover totalled five billion euros as I did over there.

They have an absolute belief in training young people and young people want to work for them because they are valued and respected businesses that offer them fantastic careers in engineering and manufacturing, a career choice that ranks alongside doctors for respect in society.

Universities are full of Germans studying engineering, something completely reversed in the UK.

Students spend 50 per cent of their time at work, understanding why they are studying and formulating how they can take their companies to the next level.

They have excellent education systems geared towards creating a workforce and a business ethos that does not stop at good enough. This pervades German life.

We have businesses in this City Region with the foundations to emulate this, but until politicians and educationalist start to listen it will be an uphill battle. We are a nation where good enough is all we aspire to.

The World Cup is a result of our aspirations, taking part is not what it is all about, you need to win or you are just another loser.