If you believe the financial pundits we had all better make the most of whatever good times there are to be had this Christmas, because 2008 is going to be grim.
This was the year that the phrases ‘sub-prime mortgage’ and ‘credit crunch’ made their unwelcome debuts in the public consciousness. Northern Rock turned out to be built on sand, house prices started heading south and the seemingly unstoppable retail sector began to run out of steam. Fetch the canoe I’m off to Panama until things start looking up again.
Those in the engineering and technology sectors of the economy can be forgiven for a slight shrug of the shoulders at the warnings of tough times ahead and asking ‘so what’s new?’
For 20 years or more the ‘designing and making stuff’ bit of the UK economy has struggled against adversity, sometimes successfully, sometimes less so. As it did so, it saw itself more or less written off in some quarters as a relic of the past that is increasingly unimportant to an economy driven by the twin powerhouses of finance and the service sector.
But if those powerhouses begin to falter perhaps our engineering, technology and manufacturing businesses will begin to get some credit for weathering their own, much longer storm and emerging as lean, competitive and often world-class operations.
Of course they are not immune from the effects of the problems afflicting the wider economy. The so-called credit-crunch, for example, could make it more difficult for companies to raise money for vital expansion plans or investment in R&D.
What the engineering sector has shown, however, is the tenacity to overcome adversity and stay in the game against the odds. Those are lessons that other sectors of the economy may soon have to learn themselves.
But that’s for next year. Let us end as we began with the hope of a good Christmas and a happy new year to all readers of The Engineer Online.