Members of Parliament learn how to prepare the next generation for the 4th Industrial Revolution

Schoolchildren, apprentices, students and employees explain what they are doing to develop the skills that are needed to improve the UK’s industrial productivity.
There is an urgent need to tackle the UK’s poor productivity record with much needed investment in skills and digital technologies, says ABB’s UK managing director, Ian Funnell, speaking to an audience of 200 MPs, policy makers and business leaders at the company’s annual House of Commons gathering.

Solving the UK’s productivity challenges will depend on attracting the brightest and the best into the industry and Funnell urged all attendees to play their part in promoting the industry as an exciting and rewarding career choice for young people in the UK.

Funnell used the event, which was hosted by Bill Cash MP and Claire Perry MP and attended by over 100 UK businesses, to demonstrate how ABB is already supporting two of the key themes emerging in the proposed Industrial Digitalisation sector deal, which ABB is helping to develop; tackling future digital skills requirements from early education and continuing throughout people’s working lives; and providing leadership to the manufacturing sector in adopting and reaping the benefits from digital technologies. 

Claire Perry, Minister of State for Climate Change and Industry at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, spoke at the reception and seemed aligned with the key themes. She recognised the urgency of tackling manufacturing productivity and was supportive of the overall aims emerging from the Industrial Digitalisation working group. The Minister commented that, “the Government wants to work with companies like ABB to help make us a more attractive place to invest and to ensure our industry is competitive on the global stage.”

Ian Funnell highlighted the importance of the skills challenge facing industry when he told the audience that “ABB work with customers to write the future of industrial digitalisation and what can be more important to this future than the next generation? By one popular estimate, cited by the World Economic Forum, 65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist”.
Claire Perry spent time talking to some of the school children, apprentices and students that ABB work with as part of their educational engagement and was particularly pleased to see the active involvement of many schoolgirls.

ABB were supported at the event by two teams of school children; 9 year olds Beth and Emily from Holy Family Primary School in Welwyn Garden City and an older team from the Henrietta Barnett School in Hampstead. The teams were both very successful in an international robotics competition, representing the UK at the competition finals in the USA earlier this year.

The apprentice training team from Newcastle-under-Lyme College, who support one of ABB’s main sites, also supported the event. As did students from Imperial College, where ABB sponsors a carbon capture pilot plant and ABB’s own technical training team from ABB University.

Many of the attendees at the reception took the opportunity to try out some of ABB’s digital technologies; ABB Abilty RobotStudio the industry benchmark for off-line programming and virtual commissioning of robotic systems; ABB’s virtual reality control room design tool; and a simulation of an ABB digital substation.

The digitalisation of UK industry is a key pillar within the UK Industrial Strategy. ABB are working with over 200 UK companies to identify the barriers preventing the UK Industry joining the digital revolution which is key to future wealth creation for the Country. For further information see

ABB (ABBN: SIX Swiss Ex) is a pioneering technology leader in electrification products, robotics and motion, industrial automation and power grids, serving customers in utilities, industry and transport & infrastructure globally. Continuing more than a 125-year history of innovation, ABB today is writing the future of industrial digitalisation and driving the Energy and Fourth Industrial Revolutions. ABB operates in more than 100 countries with about 132,000 employees.

Claire Perry MP addressing an invited audience of business and parliamentary guests