Engineering skills shortages will leave UK behind warns report

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Engineering skills shortages are threatening to leave the UK behind its international counterparts in the race to secure energy markets, according to a report by EngineeringUK

The report states that the engineering sector is at the forefront of rebalancing the UK economy and meeting climate change and renewable energy targets. Success, it states, is dependent upon both investment, on a scale not known since reconstruction after World War II, and on significantly boosting the skill levels of UK workers. The annual report, Engineering UK 2011: The state of Engineering was launched at Number 11 Downing Street today and brought together leaders from industry, education and government - including Minister for Business and Enterprise, Mark Prisk, to deliver a new partnership to address these challenges. Its findings echo those of the Future of UK Manufacturing Summit which brought together government, industry and stakeholder organisations to promote UK manufacturing. The global low carbon market is projected to reach £4.5trillion by 2015 and the new report highlights the need for the UK to stake its claim in this growing industry. It also raises concerns about whether the UK's lack of skills at the appropriate level could put opportunities out of reach. Significant discrepancies between the demand and supply of appropriately skilled technicians are also pin pointed. At least 10% of technicians currently working within science, engineering and technology fields are under qualified – at level two (equivalent to GCSE grades A* - C, NVQ or BTEC Level 2) or below, where at least a level three (A Levels, NVQ or BTEC level 3) is needed. Paul Jackson, chief executive of EngineeringUK, warned that while the report highlighted the demand for investment, the underlying issue is the need to produce the right number of engineers with the right level of skills to maximise the UK's economic potential. "Addressing the imbalance between demand and the right level of engineering skills is a generational challenge," Jackson said. "There is a massive opportunity here for industry. The government and the engineering sector must now grip this challenge and make Britain the watchword for low carbon engineering expertise. "EngineeringUK's programmes engage with the whole science, technology and engineering community because working together is the only way to bring about effective change. Today's launch, which brought together government, business and education, is further evidence of the recognition of the importance of engineering to the UK economy, the need to bridge the gap between demand and supply of engineers, and a commitment to work together to achieve this." Business Minister, Mark Prisk, pictured, added that more engineers are needed if there is to be a resurgence in the UK manufacturing sector and the UK is to become a world leader in the production of low carbon economy products. "Nearly half of those currently employed are over 45, so the industry faces the challenge of filling more than 500,000 posts over the coming six years," Prisk cautioned. "We need a new approach where industry, education and government works collaboratively to achieve this common ambition so I welcome this partnership to address these challenges." In the recent spending review, the Government announced it will be increasing adult apprenticeship funding by up to £250million a year, by the end of the spending review period. Prisk suggests the programme will continue to grow, "By 2014/15 we will have in place sufficient funding for 75,000 more adult apprenticeship places than the previous Government were providing," he said.