Manufacturers in Norfolk need better investment, says company manager

Anglia Harvesters: Left to right; John Palmer (Commercial Manager), Charlene Poeira (Sales Administr

Anglia Harvesters: Left to right; John Palmer (Commercial Manager), Charlene Poeira (Sales Administration), Paul Moss (Sales Director), Jan Kiffmeier (CLAAS Intern/Placement Student) - Credit: Submitted

East Anglia would be better placed to become a successful manufacturing zone if there was more investment in infrastructure and apprenticeships.

That's according to the boss of Anglia Harvesters, which is part of the dealer network for German-based manufacturing group Claas, and one of many UK companies which is an assembly line rather than a total manufacturer.

John Palmer, commercial manager at the firm in Bury St Edmunds, said with access to ports, air routes, dual carriageways and the Channel Tunnel nearby, Norfolk and Suffolk was in a unique position to export large-scale manufactured goods – but the challenges were immense.

'There are local manufacturers, and I'm not knocking those, but the heavy industry manufacturers with international growth... there are very few of those for ambitious people in this region to work at,' said Mr Palmer. 'There's JCB outside the region, they're one of our few really big manufacturers left. Even John Deere has no manufacturing done here, it's all done in America or Germany.

'We're very well-placed because we have all the communication links with the ports, you've got Stansted close by and Harwich as well. 'Whether you could get all the other infrastructure is another question. We'd have to get the skills base in the region right up again, you need people with the expertise in plant maintenance. It would take a concerted effort from the government to really hit targets.'

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Claas UK has an apprenticeship scheme which currently has 20 young people on course, with around three applicants to one position.

In Germany, said Mr Palmer, the company could expect to see closer to 100 applicants for each position – showing the greater focus on vocational training in that nation.

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Mr Palmer's comments follow a Confederation of British Industry report this month which showed mixed fortunes for manufacturing industries, with the lowest number of orders since October last year, but an improvement on export orders.

Speaking about the UK's manufacturing figures generally, the CBI's director of economics Rain Newton-Smith called on the government to take action to support British manufacturers to export overseas.

'To drive trade progress forwards, we want to see the new government re-commit to an ambitious, long-term exports target to fully unlock the UK's potential,' said Mr Newton-Smith. 'Doing this will be vital to boosting investment, jobs and growth right across the country.'

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