Government report signals new focus on engineering

The importance of technology and engineering skills to the economy has been emphasised by a UK government report.

According to the National Strategic Skills Audit, commissioned by the Government, the development of skills particularly in the area of advanced manufacturing are “vital if the economic recovery is to continue”.

Business Secretary Lord Mandelson said: “Over the next decade, Britain’s economy is going to need a new wave of private sector investment in long-term business creation and job creation. We will need new industrial strengths and we will need to reinforce our position as global leaders in innovative manufacturing and services.”

“This means not just getting the economy growing again, but asking and answering the big questions about how we are going to pay our way in the world ten years from now – the scale of investment we need from the private sector, in infrastructure and skills, demands that stability and certainty,” said Mandelson.

See: UK needs manufacturing – tell us something we didn’t know

Six “vital” manufacturing sectors have been identified, these are: aerospace, silicon electronics, plastics/printed electronics, industrial biotechnology, composites and nanotechnology.

“Despite having a more skilled workforce than at any time in our history, we still lag behind many of our major economic competitors,” said Chris Humphries, chief executive of the UK Commission for Employment and Skills.

The report highlighted areas where the investment in engineering skills can be improved.

“We need more and better businesses with more and better jobs not just to recover from the recession, but be better than we were before it,” said Humphries. 

Specifically, the report said that at management and leadership level there must be the ability to drive new product development and commercialisation

But also at the individual level there needs to be “an understanding of multiple scientific disciplines, different target markets and supply chains so the commercial potential of new product innovation can be realised,” said the report.

A full copy of the Skills and future of Advanced Manufacturing assessment is available for download.

It is to be noted that advanced manufacturing is just one of six key sectors which the UK government has identified for potential economic expansion and job opportunities in the UK.

These are:

* Advanced manufacturing
* Digital economy
* Low carbon economy
* Engineering/construction
* Life sciences and pharmaceuticals
* Professional and financial services

 “The National Strategic Skills Audit shows that there have been some massive shifts in the labour market over the past decade. In order to operate in this fast-changing environment we need comprehensive market intelligence, showing us which are the really key priorities for future investment,” said Humphries.

The remit of the UK Commission is to advise government on employment and skills strategy and targets.

As part of the skills audit, Semta, the employer-led Sector Skills Council for science, engineering and manufacturing technologies, highlighted the need to improve the attractiveness of science, engineering and manufacturing to draw new recruits.

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