UK lacks engineering and tech skills to make government's industrial strategy work – report

Your lip service is all very well, but where are the people?

A lack of skills in the engineering and technical workforce could hold up the government's industrial strategy, according to a report by the Institution of Engineering and Technology.

The 2017 Skills and Demand in Industry report found that nearly two-thirds of engineering and technical employers said that finding staff with the right skills was a barrier to achieving their business objectives over the next three years.

Of the 800 employers surveyed, three-quarters said that tackling the skills problem was fundamental to making the government's industrial strategy viable.

The government recently unveiled its 255-page industrial strategy, which included new "sector deals" in artificial intelligence, automotive, construction and life sciences.

The strategy also re-announced a number of programmes as spending commitments set out in the budget, such as the pledge to increase research and development spending.

But Joanna Cox, head of policy at the IET, said the skills shortage remains an ongoing concern for engineering companies in the UK.

"Employers tell us that tackling this problem is fundamental to making the government's industrial strategy viable.

"We must now bring businesses, academia and government together and strengthen their working relationships to ensure that the next generation of talent has the right practical and technical skills to meet future demand.

"We are urging more businesses to provide more quality work experience opportunities for young people and more apprenticeships, enabling employees to earn while they learn and develop their work-readiness."

The Industrial Strategy white paper is more of a "statement of intent" than a commitment, urging the creation of a world-class "technical education system" with an additional £406m spent on maths, digital and technical education, along with £725m ploughed into a new industrial strategy challenge fund.

Some of that money could in theory be found from the national productivity investment fund, created by chancellor Philip Hammond a year ago and expanded in the Budget to £31bn. ®

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