Motorola boss stresses importance of learning

UK manufacturers must dramatically increase the rate at which their employees learn and apply that knowledge if they are to survive in the new economy, David Brown, chairman of Motorola, warned this week.

Brown, speaking at an Engineering Council professional development conference, said the rate at which engineers learn and then act is the last sustainable competitive advantage that companies will have in the future.

He said recent rapid developments in UK industry have been built on the generation and flow of new knowledge, and this will be more evident in the future.

Brown claimed future academics will need to teach broad technical skills, rather than attempting to keep up with the pace of technological change – already a difficult task.

`Universities should also keep a close eye on the balance between teaching analytical skills and teaching creative skills, which I value much more,’ he said.

`Industry needs more imaginative engineers who can move boundaries,’ he added.

Speaking at the conference, Engineering Council chairman Dr Robert Hawley said that in the global economy, capital is mobile and technology can migrate quickly.

Securing the future of engineering in the UK will mean having home-grown engineers who have better knowledge, skills and creativity than their rivals overseas, he added.

Hawley would like to see all engineers undertake core people-centred training, including working together on projects, the principles of ergonomics and risk management. These competencies should be underpinned by skills such as management, financing and engineering for sustainable development, Hawley said.

`Such a framework would avoid the barriers and tribalism that currently bedevil the profession,’ he concluded.