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Engineering

Oral Answers to Questions — Business, Innovation and Skills – in the House of Commons at 9:30 am on 26th March 2015.

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Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff Conservative, Mid Worcestershire 9:30 am, 26th March 2015

What recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of steps taken by his Department to encourage more young people to obtain qualifications leading to careers in engineering.

Photo of Nicholas Boles Nicholas Boles The Minister for Universities and Science, Minister of State (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) (Jointly with the Department for Education)

Apprenticeship starts in engineering and manufacturing technologies have increased by 52% since 2010. In 2014, there was a 10% increase in new students studying engineering at university, following an 11% increase in 2013.

Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff Conservative, Mid Worcestershire

I welcome that very positive response from the Minister. However, given that continuing shortages of engineering apprentices and graduates will cost the economy as much as £27 billion a year in lost output, undermine our competitiveness and threaten our security, can he think of better words to inspire a new generation of young men and women to become engineers than those of the railway engineer who wrote:

“I am an engineer. I serve mankind by making dreams come true.”

Photo of Nicholas Boles Nicholas Boles The Minister for Universities and Science, Minister of State (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) (Jointly with the Department for Education)

It is entirely fitting that my hon. Friend should conclude his parliamentary career on such a poetic note, championing a cause he has consistently championed. It relates directly to the earlier question from Meg Munn, who is also bringing her parliamentary career to a close by championing the same cause. We have a huge amount to do, but inspiration is the key. We need to inspire young people that engineers are the people who go out and build things and make things happen in our society. We need many more of them.

Photo of Nicholas Soames Nicholas Soames Conservative, Mid Sussex

It’s all right—it’s not a difficult one. Further to my hon. Friend’s excellent and encouraging answer to my hon. Friend Sir Peter Luff, whose departure from this House we will all regret, may I point out that a company in my constituency, a very successful business called Technetix that I went to visit some time ago, drew to my attention the fact that it was having to recruit engineers from abroad because it simply could not find enough here. The figures I asked for in a question show that in 2004 5,630 electronic and electrical engineer graduates appeared, but that in 2013-14 only 5,500 appeared. The Government are doing a great deal and the call for inspiration is worthy, but we need to deliver many more people to engineering.

Photo of Nicholas Boles Nicholas Boles The Minister for Universities and Science, Minister of State (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) (Jointly with the Department for Education)

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. We have made good progress, but from an unbelievably low base, having taken over from a Government who told people they only needed to do media studies or some such waffle to have a good career. We are picking up from a disastrous inheritance and making good progress, and with his support I know we will make further progress in the next parliamentary term.

Photo of Bill Esterson Bill Esterson Labour, Sefton Central

I was at a school in my constituency on Monday where the students told me of the difficulties they had studying engineering and other STEM subjects. The school said the problem was it could not recruit the teachers. There has been a shortfall in the number of teachers recruited to STEM subjects in the last few years as well. Does the Minister agree that this is a fundamental problem and that the action taken by the Government on teacher training has not addressed it at all?

Photo of Nicholas Boles Nicholas Boles The Minister for Universities and Science, Minister of State (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) (Jointly with the Department for Education)

It will not surprise you, Mr Speaker, to hear that I do not agree at all. Through the outstanding Education and Training Foundation, we have invested a great deal specifically to put further education teachers into a position to teach the vital skills of English and maths. Take-up has been substantial, and as a result further education colleges can continue to teach people maths through to 18 if they have not achieved successful results. We have also set up more university technical colleges—a great deal more than the last Government. These are long-term plans to turn around the situation that the hon. Gentleman’s Government did nothing to deal with in 13 years.