Brexit, devolution, productivity and skills are the four big challenges facing Sheffield City Region, the 382nd Cutlers’ Feast heard.
Bosses were doing their best to tackle issues they had control over, but: “the Government must deliver a solution to Brexit that is good for business,” said Senior Warden Nick Cragg, who will be the next Master Cutler.
And local politicians, including newly-elected mayor of South Yorkshire Dan Jarvis, had to make “a success of devolution.”
Mr Cragg gave a speech at the Cutlers’ Hall in Sheffield to 330 people including former transport secretary Lord Adonis.
He said: “Our manufacturing spirit is strong, we are ready for the opportunities that lie ahead. All that we ask is that we are able to compete on a level playing field with our international competitors
“Let us make a success of devolution and not let other regions leave us behind. Give us a landscape of confidence for future investment to grow our businesses and the growth in quality jobs will follow.
“We must not let down our younger generation – let us give them the openings that we have had but many in our region have been denied through lack of ambition or opportunity.”
The Cutlers’ Company represents manufacturers and today boasts 360 members at almost 300 companies.
Mr Cragg said: “The government in its Brexit negotiations must ensure businesses retain the ability to compete effectively in the EU marketplace without additional barriers to cost, technical regulation and lead-time.
“Future trade deals can ease access to other global trading blocs, BUT there will be an inevitable time gap. This is despite the welcome short-term relief afforded by the transition arrangements. The EU market is too big a trading bloc in which to be competitively disadvantaged.”
Mr Cragg also said it was time to join the top table on devolution. Sheffield City Region’s deal for £1bn and powers is on ice after the leaders of Barnsley and Doncaster withheld their consent to pursue a ‘One Yorkshire’ ambition.
He added: “In other regions outside of London and the South East, the focus on devolution is boosting investment in local transport and infrastructure, both earmarked as priority areas for action by manufacturers.
“Let US join that table to ensure those benefits are seen in OUR region.”
The Government’s industrial strategy and advances like those pioneered by the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Centre were set to boost productivity, he added. But one in seven small businesses could not connect to fibre broadband.
BETTER WORKERS BETTER LEARNERS SCHEME
The Cutlers’ Company runs a work experience scheme which is improving productivity. Senior warden Nick Cragg said: “I am delighted to report that in its sixth year, the scheme ‘Better Learners, Better Workers’ awarded 169 passports to schoolleavers – helping young people succeed in the workplace.”