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£30m fund aims to boost the supply of UK engineers

12 June, 2014

The UK government has announced a £30m fund to boost the supply of engineers, to encourage more women into engineering, and to address engineering skills shortages in smaller companies. The fund is intended to help engineering companies to establish training programmes to develop future engineers, as well as raising the number of women in the profession.

£10m of the fund will be earmarked for an initiative called Developing Women Engineers, and £10m for another called Improving Engineering Careers. These are the first of a series of initiatives focusing on priority sectors that play a key role in ensuring the UK’s global competitiveness. Bidders will be encouraged to explore how they can support employees, particularly women, looking to return to the sector and how individuals with relevant skills can be helped to become fully qualified engineers.

A further £10m will be made available in the autumn to develop engineering skills in smaller companies.

The government has developed the initiatives in consultation with professional institutions and companies from the engineering sector.

Launching the Manufacture your Future programme, skills and enterprise minister Matthew Hancock said that “skills are central to the UK economy and our long-term competitiveness. In order to allow UK engineering to grow and compete on the world stage, we need a guaranteed supply of highly skilled and talented engineers.

“As highlighted in the Perkins Review,” he continued, “the UK engineering sector is currently failing to draw on the whole talent pool. By supporting employers to develop the workforce of the future and bring more women into the engineering, we’re empowering the industry to unlock its potential.”

The scheme forms part of the government’s Employer Ownership Fund that helps employers to implement training projects that can address skills shortages that are holding back their business. It provides 50% of matched funding to employers.

Hancock: empowering the engineering industry to unlock its potential

The new government actions are a response to recommendations made in Perkins Review of Engineering, published in November 2013. This recommended that the government invite employers to put forward innovative proposals to develop engineering skills in sectors suffering acute skills shortages.

Terry Scuoler chief executive of EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, describes the lack of engineering skills in the UK as “a ticking time-bomb”. Manufacturers, he adds, are investing heavily in their current and future workforces to prevent it from exploding.

“This must include investing in all sections of our workforce – in particular, women, where the UK has an especially poor record,” says Scouler. “What has been needed is extra support to push companies to adopt more innovative solutions to truly tackle the skills shortage and gender imbalance that exists in our industry. The fund announced today will do just that and we will be encouraging manufacturers to get involved and take this opportunity to tackle the skills challenge head-on.”

Explaining the thinking behind the Developing Women Engineers initiative, minister for women, Nicky Morgan, says: “We need to move away from the perception that engineering is a ‘man’s world’. Without women pursuing careers in engineering, UK companies are missing out on a vast pool of talent.”

The fund call notice will be placed on the publications pages of the Web site from 19 June 2014. The notice will contain a link to the Skills Funding Agency website, where employers can find more information about the fund and complete an online application form.

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