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Air industry expert blows whistle on jobs `horror' `Unless government gets a grip it will be only 2% of Welsh economy'.

A SENIOR aerospace source has outlined to The Western Mail his grave concerns about the future of the industry in Wa

es . The source, who must remain anonymous, said, ``I decided to be a whistle-blower after watching, in mounting frustration, the clumsy efforts of the Welsh Development Agency to get to grips with the issue of the Welsh aerospace indus t ry. ``The consequences for our national aerospace industry are going to be horrific. It employs about 25,000 people in all, split into primary jobs in contractors, Airbus, the RAF, avionics, space components etc and the rest in secondary jobs created by the primary industry.

``Airbus North Wales has about people6,000 involved. It is planned to more than double this over the next three years or so, but we are already facing a crisis with a major skills shortage. Trained aerospace in Airbus Wales at are engineers scarce in the UK as a whole, let alone in Wales. This factor alone endangers the future of Airbus Wales. ``The core Welsh aerospace industry is at present about 8% of the Welsh economy, with an additional 4% of jobs in spin-off from it. About half of this Broughton. ``Aerospace Wales started out reasonably well. The Assembly voted a budget, Aerospace Wales was set up and a headhunting agency set out to recruit a chief for it. They found Dr John Whalley, who everyone says was an inspired choice, well known in the industry and well respected, but almost immediately things started to go wrong because WDA understood neither the industry, the tech-nologies, the culture of aerospace or the politics.

``Dr Whalley was left on his own, with no guidance and, peculiarly, no money from the Assembly grant. It appears that for the first year of its existence Aerospace Wales was allowed to have no money for staff, offices, equipment or even expenses. They were not allowed to recruit outside experts and consultants, and WDA had little or no understanding of the extreme urgency and importance of rapidly providing solutions to the problems of the industry, such as skills shortages.

``Dr Whalley recruited an international expert, Dr Graham Ennis, who was wellknown as an expert in space technology but also had wide experience of the aerospace industry generally, wide contacts and a dynamic approach to getting things solved. He has advised other governments on aerospace policies and problems.

``The problem was that the WDA refused to approve his recruitment. For some months he apparently worked on Welsh aerospace problems, including issues like the skills shortage, and made some serious contributions. We were happy with his proposals for an aerospace university in Wales. However, as I understand it, WDA simply ran up huge bills for his work as a consultant and then refused to pay him. I believe he went back to live in Brighton in disgust.

``I was shocked to hear these things and made some inquiries. I was even more shocked to hear that Aerospace Wales, although voted substantial Assembly funds, was not being allowed to recruit any proper staff or have offices etc. I would compare this with the situation in other European countries the size of Wales, such as Denmark, Norway and Ireland, which all have flourishing aerospace industries. In every case these are properly supported by governmentfunded NGOs, with budgets of several million pounds a year, staffs of about 20-40 people, and excellent policies for proactive industry growth.

``To put things right the Welsh Assembly Government needs to vote about pounds 5m a year for a proper, fully-fledged aerospace agency. They have a pounds 13bn budget next year, so this would be less than 0.005% of it. It is a fraction of the money being spent on the new Assembly building. Unless the government in Cardiff gets a grip, in 10 years it will be a semi-collapsed industry not amounting to more than 2% of the Welsh economy. '' Dr Ennis said, ``You have asked me about my internal problems within Aerospace Wales, with particular reference to outstanding monies, etc. I am afraid I cannot go into that, as the matter is still outstanding and I am obliged, as with all my work for the Welsh Assembly Government, to conditions of strict confidentiality and non-disclosure, under normal governmental rules. Wales has a great aerospace industry and it must not be allowed to go the way of the steel and coal industries.''
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUW
Date:Mar 21, 2003
Words:734
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