Engineering training is now a political issue, engineers say

Parties need to put engineering recruitment at the heart of the manifestos, new survey finds.

Boosting training in engineering and apprenticeships should be a focus for 2015 party political manifestos if the UK is to maintain its industry-led recovery, according to a survey of more than 3,500 UK engineers conducted by recruitment specialist Matchtech.

The latest Matchtech Confidence Index reveals that only around one-in-four (26%) engineers believe Government actions to encourage engineering innovation and investment to rebalance the economy are working, while 41% believe they are having little impact.

Instead, engineers are calling on the parties to focus on training and creating a new generation of talent to sustain the engineering recovery.

The survey comes hot on the heels of the State of Engineering report from EngineeringUK which says the sector needs to recruit 182,000 people a year up to 2022 to meet demand. (See its chief executive Paul Jackson's comment piece here).

Overall more than two fifths (41% of engineers) want to see greater investment in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) apprenticeship schemes, with more than a quarter (26%) wanting reduced university fees or greater financial support for those studying STEM subjects.

More than a quarter (26%) want to see politicians setting out a clear energy infrastructure strategy for the UK with 25% also wanting increased infrastructure investment as a foundation for future economic growth. A fifth (21%) also want to see political manifestos committing to greater tax breaks and subsidies for organisations investing in engineering and industrial R&D.

Purely in the infrastructure sector, engineers naturally cite increasing infrastructure investment to boost jobs and create a foundation for future economic growth as the top manifesto policy they want to see, with 39% calling for it. The same percentage of engineers, (39%), would like to see greater investment in STEM apprenticeship schemes. A clear strategy for future investment in UK energy infrastructure and clarity on the energy mix is the second most important policy initiative to these engineers with 36% calling for it.

“While government efforts to drive growth through industry and infrastructure and rebalance the economy to enable a ‘March of the Makers’ are welcome, our survey shows many engineers believe more still needs to be done,” said Matchtech managing director Keith Lewis.

“While UK industrial and engineering businesses have shown good growth, momentum must be maintained if this vital sector is to prosper in the long term. At present the looming skills shortage and inadequate number of people choosing to train as engineers is a major worry and we urge all political parties to take bold steps to address this in their manifestos.

“Our survey shows that engineers want to see a strong focus on apprenticeship schemes. Indeed boosting apprenticeships and encouraging people to take STEM degrees will form an essential part of the long-term solution to building a strong engineering future for the UK.”

While engineers remain to be convinced that government calls to rebalance the economy towards industry is driving greater investment in engineering, direct public sector investment in infrastructure is felt to be delivering, with 46% of engineers saying infrastructure projects like Crossrail are elevating the reputation of UK engineering.

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