PM says engineering will rescue economy

03 March 2009

The UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown has stressed the importance of science and engineering in Britain’s economic future, saying the country must develop the technical skills needed in high tech industries. The Prime Minister set out his plans to tackle looming skill shortages in Oxford’s famous Romanes Lecture on February 27.

Gordon Brown gave the Romanes Lecture on February 27
Gordon Brown gave the Romanes Lecture on February 27

The Engineering and Technology Board (ETB) welcomed the Prime Minister’s stance but stressed that its research had revealed that 55 per cent of careers advisors, teachers and lecturers incorrectly believe that a degree is the only route into engineering, thereby presenting significant challenges to achieving this outcome.

According to the organisation, in order to increase public understanding of science Government, business and industry, and the wider STEM community must work together to dispel the myth of engineering as an unattractive career. Education professionals must be supported in providing accurate, engaging careers information on the many and varied routes into engineering including apprenticeships. This will include refreshing the skills of current workers and opportunities for new entrants, according to the ETB.

Furthermore, looming skills shortages in chemical, pharmaceutical, rail, nuclear, oil, gas and renewable energy engineering, as identified in Engineering UK 2008, must also be addressed if Britain is to restore and sustain economic prosperity in the long-term.

The ETB says that in order to deliver the advances in public infrastructure set out in the Romanes Lecture, and elsewhere, as key to recovery, thousands upon thousands of technicians and apprentices will be required including:
· 41,000 engineering technicians in the chemical, pharmaceutical and energy sector by 2022
· 170,000 workers in renewables including solar, water and heating

The task now, according to the ETB, is for Government, business and industry to use this new review to identify other areas of potential growth into which skilled people can be re-trained and redeployed.

Chief executive of the ETB, Paul Jackson, welcomed the Prime Ministers stance.

Jackson said: ‘It is encouraging to see the Prime Minister recognising that so many of the great challenges we face today will be overcome by innovations in technology driven by engineers.

‘The task now is for Government, business and industry, and the education and STEM communities to come together and provide the tools, training and retraining we need to do so and, to follow the words of Thomas Edison and start on the 100 small steps to success.’

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