The UK government hopes a new multi-million pound fund will help remedy the shortage of engineering talent which currently plagues domestic industry.
The new 30 million UK pound (approximately AU$54 million) fund launched by the UK government has the goal of increasing the supply of engineers in the national workforce. It was designed in direct response to the recommendations of the Perkins Review of Engineering, which was published toward the end of 2013.
In the review, former IChemE president John Perkins proposed that employers submit innovative proposals to the government for fostering the development of engineering personnel in sectors suffering from severe shortages of skilled personnel.
“As highlighted in the Perkins Review, the engineering sector is currently failing to draw on the whole talent pool,” ” said Skills and Enterprise Minister Matthew Hancock. “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.”
The launch of the fund arrives just months after the release of a report by one of UK’s leading engineering bodies claiming that domestic industry faces an imminent skills crisis as veteran personnel edge towards retirement.
Engineering the Future said in its Insight into Modern Manufacturing report that the UK is on the verge of an acute shortage of skilled engineers as a result of both the scheduled retirement of senior members of the workforce and a lack of fresh graduates to compensate for their departure.
The group – one of the UK’s largest and most influential industry bodies with more than 450,000 members – called for the government to make engineering education more practical and appealing via the incorporation of more “real world applications” and less emphasis on just passing exams.
Leading members of industry have also complained of an engineering skills crisis in the UK, with Sir James Dyson, eponymous founder of Dyson Ltd, saying he has been unable to fill all the positions at his company’s British head office after tripling the number of engineers required.
One third of the new government fund will be used for an “improving engineering careers” program, and another third spent on the development of engineering skills in smaller firms. This funding will be made available to companies via a bidding process, as well as to individuals who possess relevant skills to become fully qualified engineers yet still lack formal training.
The fund will also place a heavy emphasis on fostering the participation of women in the workforce, dedicating a final third of its money to the task.
“By supporting employers to develop the workforce of the future and bring more women into engineering, we’re empowering the industry to unlock its potential,” said Hancock.
“We need to move away from the perception that engineering is a ‘man’s’ world,” said Nicky Morgan, the UK minister for women “Without women pursuing careers in engineering, UK companies are missing out on a vast pool of talent.”