In the last ADS blog on the Defence and Security Industrial Strategy (DSIS), we will address the importance of the long-term competitiveness and health of the UK’s defence and security sectors. Our industries are highly productive and employ skilled workforces that earn more than the national average. However, this should not be cause for complacency. The UK faces increasing competition from its international peers and must respond through supply chain initiatives, industry-Government collaboration on the skills agenda, and by strengthening the commercial expertise within Government itself.
The defence and security sectors are major employers in the UK and offer diverse regional opportunities for well-paid, skilled employment. However, there are a range of well-documented physical and digital skills gaps we face. This is exacerbated by an UK-wide STEM skills gap, which inevitably has driven up competition for a limited pool of talent. In addition, inconsistent pipelines of work can lead to the decline of complex skillsets that are resource-intensive to rebuild.
The DSIS offers an opportunity for the Government to develop a strategic national skills plan to meet the demands of the future workforce, in collaboration with industry. Such a plan should outline the UK’s strategic national skills priorities and work with the Department for Education on the STEM agenda from primary education onwards, to promote STEM and career pathways into our sectors early on. Industry will have a crucial role to play in working with local schools and colleges to educate and train the workforce of tomorrow.
ADS also believes that there is an urgent need to strengthen the commercial expertise inside Government. Issues such as the high turnover of government staff, salary caps and lack of commercial experience can hinder the working relationship between industry and Government. This should be dealt with in part through training, in part through external hires, and in part through sharing best practise across the whole of Government and industry. The defence and security sectors should also foster secondments for government staff at an operational level where learnings can be implemented to more direct effect, not at a more senior level as they tend to be.
The final step that the DSIS must address is competitiveness in our supply chains. On a large defence prime contract up to two thirds of the cost is represented by subcontracts and other purchases, so improving the supply chain can have significant benefits. There are a number of initiatives already working to address this, such as Supply Chains for the 21st Century (SC21), but their effectiveness should be assessed and where appropriate the DSIS must deliver additional funding to support their work and engage SMEs to take part.
Through the course of this blog series ADS has outlined five core areas that an ambitious and comprehensive DSIS must address. Our sectors are crucial partners to Government in meeting the challenges it faces, including strengthening the UK’s technological edge, promoting economic growth across the UK, and maintaining our national security. To reap the benefits of this, and to secure the future of our sectors in the UK, the Government needs to collaborate with and support industry in an agile way, and in doing so develop greater mutual trust.
To read the rest of ADS’s blogs on the DSIS please see below. If you have any questions or comments please contact Nathan Mathiot at firstname.lastname@example.org and Andy Johnston at email@example.com: