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To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what steps he is taking to improve skills capability for electronics design in engineering and manufacturing; and if he will make a statement.
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and SEMTA, the sector skills council for electronics manufacturing, have given their support to the industry-led initiative, the UK Electronics Skills Foundation (UKESF), which reaches into schools and universities to raise awareness of the significance and profile of electronics in modern life and in meeting social and technological challenges. It brings together companies and universities, and provides undergraduate students with early connections with companies in the sector through sponsorship, mentoring, summer schools and industrial work experience. It seeks to achieve a higher retention rate for UKESF-sponsored students graduating into the electronic design sector.
BIS officials are working closely with electronics sector stakeholders on the ‘Electronic Systems—Challenges and Opportunities’ (ESCO) sector strategy which is focusing on barriers and opportunities for the UK's electronics systems sector and will examine the competitive position of the UK and present information on the size, economic and strategic contribution to the UK economy. The strategy, which is expected to be published in November 2012, includes a workstream looking at the skills and training issues for this sector.
On engineering skills more broadly, Government reforms are developing a demand-led model to help deliver the engineering and technical skills that business needs. We are financing sustained investment in high quality vocational training to boost midrange skills, including record numbers of apprenticeships and creating 33 university technical colleges. The extensive measures we have taken to drive up the quality of apprenticeships will safeguard and improve the learning provided through the apprenticeship programme. We are also rebalancing the apprenticeship programme to offer specific, targeted support to help employers access advanced level and higher apprenticeships, and to develop new higher apprenticeships at level 5 and above. Through the Employer Ownership Pilot, we have taken radical steps to pilot greater employer ownership of vocational training by giving employers the opportunity to take ownership of the skills agenda for their industry or sector.