Modest Increase in Engineering and Manufacturing Apprenticeships Is a Cause for Concern

18/11/2011 09:11 GMT | Updated 18/01/2012 10:12 GMT

Engineering affects everyone, everywhere in the world. You could not brush your teeth or drive to work without relying on the work of engineers. But there is a national shortage of engineering graduates and technicians, which negatively affects the economy.

Statistics from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills has estimated that 58% of the new jobs created by 2017 will require Science Technology, Engineering or Maths skills and that the greatest challenge will be meeting demand for skills at Levels three, four and five.

The Institution of Engineering and Technology's most recent skills survey showed that 38% of employers said they expected to employ more apprentices.

I believe all of this tells us that now is a great time to go into engineering, as employers are crying out for new people.

There's a route into engineering to suit everyone, from vocational apprenticeships, for the more practically minded, through to graduate and post-graduate qualifications for the more academically inclined.

The increase in university fees will have no doubt put many of the academic route, making apprenticeships even more appealing.

Recent figures from the government show that despite increased funding for Apprenticeships over the last year, there has only been a modest increase in engineering and manufacturing apprenticeships.

A 24% increase in engineering and manufacturing apprenticeships against a backdrop of a 50% increase across all sectors, should be cause for concern.

I think, if the government is serious about rebalancing the economy towards manufacturing then focus needs to be provided to ensure apprenticeship funding is targeted on this sector.

There needs to be a higher proportion of apprenticeships offered in the STEM subjects. We must see more apprenticeships in the subjects that will help to get our economy moving again.

My organisation, the Institution of Engineering and Technology, works with 71 approved apprenticeship providers, including Airbus, Bentley, Eon, Unilever and Network Rail, ensuring apprentices gain the skills needed by engineering employers.

The challenge to get more people into STEM careers is so big that working in partnerships is the best way to achieve it.