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Government pledges £49m to help tackle the skills shortage

05 November, 2013

The British government has pledged nearly £49m of funding to develop engineering skills in the UK in response to a major report that highlights the skills shortages faced by the UK and recommends ways to tackle them.

The Review of Engineering Skills, written by Professor John Perkins, the chief scientific adviser to BiS (the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills), calls on the government and the engineering community to inspire future engineering talent and address the shortages. It sets out plans for the government to work with educational institutions and industry to improve engineering education.

The review endorses the view that increasing the supply of engineers entering the labour market would benefit the UK economy, helping it to become more flexible and resilient, and enabling more people to take up the new opportunities that technological change presents.

The review includes 22 recommendations for action by government, industry, the engineering profession, and the education sector. It draws attention to the low number of women entering engineering in the UK, especially compared to its European rivals.

“I have highlighted the challenges currently faced by the engineering industry and the importance of all partners working together to attract future engineering talent in order to grow the UK economy,” says Professor Perkins. “I would encourage employers, educators and professional bodies in the industry to take note and get involved.”

To address future skills shortages, the government has announced:

•  up to £30m in funding in 2014 to help employers to tackle engineering skills shortages in sectors with specific needs;

•  an £18m investment in an elite training facility at the Manufacturing Technology Centre in Coventry, which is part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult;

•  £250,000 of seed funding to enable the Tomorrow’s Engineers project to accelerate the nationwide rollout of its employer engagement programme to encourage children to consider engineering careers;

•  £40,000 of support for the Daphne Jackson Trust to develop a new fellowship to support people returning to professional engineering jobs after a career break; and

•  a portal on the National Careers Service Web site, matching businesses that want to promote engineering careers in schools with organisations who can deliver educational outreach activity.

“Engineering has a vital role to play in the future of UK industry,” says business secretary, Vince Cable. “It is important that we act now to ensure businesses have access to the skills they require to enable them to grow. We cannot do this alone, so I am calling on employers and education professionals to get involved and inspire the next generation of engineers.

“Some of the challenges facing the engineering sector start when pupils are still at school and come back to choose subjects following GCSEs,” Cable adds. “Engineers must have a strong foundation in maths and science, especially physics. The number of young people choosing these subjects post-16 is relatively low, especially amongst women. The government is making changes that will impact this including: a redesign of the curriculum, teacher development and additional funding to support these changes.”

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