Haunted by the future - Wales 2030
IWA Lecture, Swansea Bay Branch, Swansea University, Thursday May 17th 2012
Vincent Kane, Wales’s most distinguished veteran broadcaster on political and industrial affairs provided an ore inspiring talk on his view of the future of Wales. Vincent, who transfixed an audience of over 80 for a full 90 minutes, painted a personal portrait of his fears in regard to where Wales will be in 2030.
In his opening statement Vincent made it clear: “I am a haunted old man… I have a great concern… a vision which scares me, haunts me… it is that I can only see that Wales will be a clapped out public sector back water…”. Throughout the evening, this view was justified by what Vincent had seen on his political broadcast journey since the 60’s through to today. It was clear that the evening was a call to action, focusing on ramping up Welsh manufacturing, new technology, and supporting the indigenous SME companies that Vincent saw as the key to changing the current direction of travel.
Over 20 years ago, on the back of an industrial liaison tour of Japan and America, Vincent realised that the key to Welsh business success was the need to ensure that quality standards were at the forefront of Welsh manufacturing, at a level that could compete globally. On his return he promptly founded the Wales Quality Centre (WQC), the vehicle to take forward this vision, that being “To make Wales synonymous with Quality”. As he spoke, he unveiled a history of significant personal achievement; it was clear that Vincent had made a huge contribution to Welsh Manufacturing as Chairman of the WQC.
More recently, The Wales Quality Centre launched the Wales 2030 campaign as a wake-up call for Wales to meet the challenges of the future competition from the BRIC countries of Brazil, Russia, India and China. At the heart was this question:
“By 2030, how different will your field of activity be and what will your company need to be a significant player by then?”
The question was posed to 150 business leaders, and 90 responses were gathered. There was a common theme, that being that there was a sense of urgency that the future should not be left to look after itself. Vincent continued to explain that there is need to change expectations, adhere to requirements in innovation, undertake a shift change in education, improve apprenticeship schemes, and promote Wales as an entrepreneurial country.
Vincent provided a summary of the responses received, highlighting past and current issues in public sector support and the failed approaches to these challenges to date. It was clear that to make change, it is the next generation who will be at the forefront of taking the challenge onwards, and that innovation and technological skills were very much needed to take Wales forward, not backwards.
At the end of the fascinating talk, Vincent challenged the audience to accept that there needs to be a change in attitude within the people of Wales, that there seems to be an ingrained view, systemic in Wales, namely a fear of profit. Evidently Vincent strongly believes that this failure to seek profit is what is, in his view, driving Wales towards the public sector backwater it is currently destined to become. “We need to encourage young people to go forward with an open mind… we need to have young people coming out of university eager to pound their own business… eager to fight in the competition I have talked about…eager to make money, for their selves, their companies and their country…to give our people a degree of prosperity they so richly deserve…and I leave you with the one word. Profitable.”
After Vincent had given his inspired speech three panellists gave their view in regard to the question raised by the Wales 2030 Campaign. David Gilson MD of Escalade Sports who explained that they have had to move production to the Far East due to many things including lack of public support and increased global competition, Pauline McDonald, Head of Careers at Swansea University who empathised with many of the points raised in regard to education, and Stuart Toomey, Project manager of Technocamps who said he believed that in 2030 every child in Wales must be given the technological and computational skills to make a positive contribution in a global marketplace.
The floor was then opened and a number of questions and points raised in response to the evenings agenda.
The event, supported by Technocamps, a European project which is driving forward the need for young people to be introduced to, and educated with, computational skills which are integral to the future STEM educational agenda, was a fascinating insight to a person with a vision, that vision being a Wales that reaches out and takes up the challenge, the challenge of profit.
Picture right: Vincent Kane OBE with Beti Williams MBE