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UK engineering is ‘facing a cliff edge’

12 January, 2015

Commenting on the EngineeringUK report, Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, says that “a strong British engineering sector is vital to the long-term sustainability of our economic recovery, and increasing the supply of engineers is at the heart of this. In Government, we’re working hard to make sure we have the skills we need in 2022 and beyond, but we need to work with industry to make sure we inspire the engineers of tomorrow, today.”

IMechE chief executive Stephen Tetlow points out that “engineers contribute over £1 trillion to the economy. That’s four times the retail sector. Even more importantly, engineers are at the heart of nearly all of the country’s vital sectors: from transport and energy through to healthcare and construction. They not only underpin the economy, they are vital to the very essentials of life: water, energy and food production.

“Engineers play critical roles in nearly all parts of society, not just the engineering ones we imagine,” he continues. “These vital sectors and all the opportunities for jobs, prosperity and growth are now dangerously at risk of failing. Most are now reporting serious shortages of the skills they need to survive, let alone grow. We need to be recruiting 182,000 people with engineering skills every year, but current levels are falling far short at just over 100,000 a year. And it’s been going on for years.

“What this report makes clear,” Tetlow adds, “is that we need a wholesale change in the way we value science and technology in schools and society. We can no longer rely on appealing just to the small proportion of people who are passionate about science, technology, engineering and maths subjects.

“We need science and engineering to be brought to life in the school curriculum and resources prioritised so that we can start to plug the appalling gaps we face. We need to understand the fundamental role engineers make to just about every walk of life and to our health and well-being. Resources need to be prioritised accordingly. And it’s not just Government that needs to take action. Employers of engineers need to welcome teachers, students and parents through their doors to show just what an exiting career can be had as an engineer.

Paul Jackson: engineering is vital to the economy

“We must grasp the opportunity before it is too late,” Tetlow warns. “If we get it right, we can not only save our economy from failure, but we can boost the UK’s economy by an additional £27bn per year if we want to. We must ensure we have the skills in place to make this happen. If ever there was a wake-up call – this is it.”

To mark the launch of the new report, EngineeringUK (formerly the Engineering and Technology Board) commissioned research from the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) on the contribution of engineering to the UK economy, both current and potential. The report looks at the contribution that engineering could make to the UK economy if targets for filling the skills gap are met and all projected new vacancies in engineering companies are filled up to 2022.

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