Lord Jones praises ‘Yorkshire quality’

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THE “collegiate” approach adopted by many Yorkshire companies will help them to succeed in export markets, according to former CBI Director General Lord Digby Jones.

However, Lord Jones expressed outrage at the levels of adult illiteracy and innumeracy in the UK, which he said was making it harder for small firms to find skilled staff.

Lord Jones - who is the star of the BBC TV series The New Troubleshooter - made the comments during a visit to Leeds to attend a private dinner.

According to Lord Jones, British manufacturing firms have to add value in order to be competitive in global markets.

He said: “You’ve got to be associated with trust and quality, and Yorkshire is good at that. You’ve got to be innovative. You’ve got to have ideas which you can take to market.

“That actually isn’t just the preserve of manufacturing. Services industries can be innovative. In the public sector, you can be innovative.”

Lord Jones, who has also served as a Trade Minister, said he wanted to encourage more Yorkshire firms to become involved in exports.

He said each of the Yorkshire businesses involved in the supply chain could work together to secure export opportunities.

He added: “There’s quite a good collegiate feel in Yorkshire about small business and that’s nice to see.”

He was bullish about the UK’s economic prospects.

“For the first time in six years, wages are growing ahead of inflation,’’ he said. “That’s great news. Unemployment is coming down more quickly than people thought. The big question out there, the elephant in the room, is ‘When do interest rates go up?

“I think (Chancellor of the Exchequer) George Osborne has got every right to sit there and say, ‘I was right wasn’t I?’

“I would sincerely hope that the Bank of England do not put up interest rates in 2014. It would be far too early.

“We’ve got to get some heat into the economy..I would have thought putting them up in Spring of 2015 is probably what will happen, slam bang in the middle of a General Election campaign. That will be fun, won’t it?”

During his time as the unpaid UK Skills Envoy, Lord Jones spoke out about what he perceived as failings in Britain’s education system.

He said: “One of the problems that business has with apprenticeships is that, if you put an advert in the Yorkshire Post, and you said, ‘Wanted: One apprentice at my small business.’

“You would get something like 250 applicants. Half of them can’t even spell the name of the company they’re applying to.

“If you ask every small business in the land, ‘What’s your biggest problem?’

“They’ll say, ‘We can’t get enough skilled people.”