A report out today calls on parents, teachers, employers and the Government to pull together to inspire the young to become engineers and address the chronic shortage of engineering skills needed to grow the UK economy.
Professor John Perkins, the chief scientific adviser to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, who conducted the review into improving the UK’s engineering talent pipeline, said: “I have highlighted the challenges currently faced by the engineering industry and the importance of all partners working together. Employers, educators and professional bodies in the industry should take note and get involved.”
The Perkins Review has been published to coincide with the launch of the Government’s flagship national campaign – Tomorrow’s Engineers Week – to promote engineering to young people across the country, particularly to young women.
Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, kicks off the launch at Facebook’s London headquarters today, and will be announcing £250,000 of seed funding to enable Tomorrow’s Engineers, which is backed by the Royal Academy of Engineering and other leading organisations, to work with schools around the country.
As part of the campaign to boost engineering skills, the head of Siemens UK, Roland Aurich, will be opening the UK’s first Junior Factory run by apprentices on Thursday at Congleton, near Manchester.
It will be modelled on those run by Siemens in Germany, and will act as a ‘small factory’ within a factory, working on drives for assembly line production.
The factory will be run by a mix of 30 commercial and technical apprentices, aged 16 to 21, who will be given the responsibility of running every aspect of the manufacturing process- from the industrial to the financial.
Mr Aurich told The Independent: “Our aims are very clear – let’s train up our young apprentices for the long-term challenges they will face in their careers while fostering a culture of innovation, autonomy and, crucially, entrepreneurship.
“We need to make a bold statement in Siemens and across industry – be an engineering apprentice and you can go from the shop floor to the top floor. Schemes like this help young people understand how an engineering apprenticeship can lead to a rewarding career.”
To back up the Perkins Review, Mr Cable will also announce £49m of new funding to improve engineering skills, including £30m for employers to bid for to address engineering skills shortages in specific sectors and industries.
Another £18m is to be invested in a new training centre at the Manufacturing Technology Centre in Coventry, which works with companies such as Rolls-Royce as well as start-ups in developing innovation and next generation technology.
Mr Cable will say: “We cannot do this alone, so I am calling on employers and education professionals to get involved and inspire the next generation of engineers.
“Engineering has a vital role to play in the future of UK industry. It is important that we act now to ensure businesses have access to the skills they require to enable them to grow.”
The Business Secretary will also disclose a shake-up to the National Careers Service with the launch of a new portal to its website to help companies that want to promote engineering careers in schools match up with organisations which can provide those educational activities.
But most critically, there are to be changes to the curriculum to encourage the study post-16 of STEM subjects that are key to the study of engineering. The number pursuing such a course is low in the UK, particularly among young female pupils.