The government desperately needs to formulate a nationwide industrial policy if it is to be successful with its ambition of rebalancing the economy, the body responsible for promoting the contribution that engineers make to our society has said.
Paul Jackson, chief executive of EngineeringUK, met officials from the office of business secretary Vince Cable this month to press for the need for greater coherency in Whitehall strategy when it comes to supporting manufacturing and engineering.
Jackson said: “We desperately need an industrial policy that sets the vision and framework for rebalancing the economy. The government has announced many useful initiatives to support engineering and manufacturing. But it has gone about things in a piecemeal fashion. That means the initiatives haven't had the desired overall effect.”
Jackson said he had been invited to meet officials from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and had pushed for the need for an industrial policy. “BIS was very receptive to our views,” said Jackson. “We hope it leads to a more coherent industrial strategy that is agreed across departments, at cabinet level and among the devolved governments. This is something that has to be taken as a single issue.”
Part of EngineeringUK's remit is to inspire people to pursue careers in engineering and technology. It has recorded several notable successes in recent years, not least of which has been the development of the Big Bang Fair, which this year attracted more than 56,000 visitors to the NEC in Birmingham.
Jackson said next year's event, to be held in London in March, would be even bigger, and that he hoped the Prime Minister would attend. He said: “We have been trying to get Downing Street more interested. If the Prime Minister doesn't come next year, then we will be very disappointed.
“The young people who attend the Big Bang Fair are ultimately the people who will one day help us rebalance the economy.”
EngineeringUK has also driven forward the Tomorrow's Engineers online resource, which provides exciting careers material to school students on the www.tomorrowsengineers.org.uk website.
Jackson said: “Too often young people close off their career options through the subjects they choose. Tomorrow's Engineers is aimed at helping them make some informed choices.”
The initiative has won the support of several big firms including Rolls-Royce, E.On, Severn Trent and National Grid. “Business spends a lot of money on educational outreach. This is a way for them to do it better and to get more bang for their buck,” said Jackson.
- Looking for a new challenge in engineering? Visit our dedicated jobs board for latest industry vacancies www.topengineeringjobs.com