After trips to Brighton and Manchester for the Labour and Conservative party conferences, I returned to London buoyed by the Government’s announcement of support for science and engineering careers and the renewed interest in industrial strategy from both parties.
David Willetts’ fringe speech on industrial strategy was a packed-out event – a stark contrast to previous years – and discussions about infrastructure were a welcome and much needed change from the political scrapping which has got in the way of clear-sighted progress in the past.
Encouraging young women to keep their engineering options open by pursuing physics at A Level and engineering at degree level is vital for the UK’s current and future economic success
Willetts’ speech suggests that the engineering community is being heard. We have been calling for expansion in university capacity and the £200 million earmarked in the speech is a good start. The devil – as always – remains in the detail, however. Encouraging young women to keep their engineering options open by pursuing physics at A Level and engineering at degree level is vital for the UK’s current and future economic success and for young people’s employment prospects. This goal is listed as a Government ‘hope’. If we are to meet increasing demand for engineers, we need more young people with the relevant academic qualifications coupled with a joined-up effort on the part of Government, businesses, education and the wider engineering community to make it happen.
Tomorrow’s Engineers Week next month, on 4-8 November, is an early signal that Government is getting with the programme and brings together the professional bodies, business and the public. The creation of the Week demonstrates their commitment to supporting an initiative, which the engineering community is behind rather than inventing something from scratch.
The community is voting with its feet and the Week already has a packed schedule. The Perkins review on engineering skills will be published on Monday 4th November, setting the context of engineering demand and the collaborative efforts to be made to improve the supply of engineering skills. Also on the 4th EngineeringUK is putting on a Big Bang Fair in Parliament in partnership with the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee – it’s great fun to be creating a ‘Big Bang’ in the Houses of Parliament on the eve of Guy Fawkes Night. And the Rolls Royce Science Prize will also take place that evening. With so much activity kicking off the Week, I’m looking forward to what the rest of the engineering community has in store.
The aim of the Tomorrow’s Engineers Week is to rally partner support, and raise awareness of the wealth of engineering careers out there for young people and the study paths to take in order to take advantage of these opportunities.
If you’re interested in getting in on the action, you can access a toolkit on the Tomorrow’s Engineers website and join the enthusiasm for the Week on Twitter using #TEWeek13
Now the politicians are listening to and acting upon our collective voice, it’s time to get involved and turn up the volume.
Author: Paul Jackson