Nov 23, 2017
The 2017 autumn budget contained a number of measures of interest to those concerned about the engineering skills gap. In a sign that the sector’s concerns are being taken seriously, section 4.2 Skills and Jobs for a New Economy references the Engineering UK State of Engineering report and highlights the struggle that UK STEM employers have in recruiting people with the right skills.
The Chancellor describes the government’s vision for an economy fit for the future with greater opportunities for the next generation through investment in skills and infrastructure. There is an emphasis on new technologies driving the fourth industrial revolution and construction, both sectors in which engineering employers and chartered engineers are significantly engaged and both sectors major drivers of the current skills gap.
For much of the detail we await the Industrial Strategy, which will set out the next steps in the government’s plans for the economy. The engineering community, led by the Royal Academy of Engineering, produced a response to the green paper on the modern industrial strategy in April 2017 which can be found here. The expected publication date for the Industrial Strategy is Monday 27 November.
Specific proposals in the budget which may have an impact on the STEM skills gap are:
- A series of policies aimed at securing R&D talent, including a change to immigration rules to make it easier for those deemed exceptionally talented to stay, to make it quicker for high-skilled students to apply to work in the UK after finishing their degree and measures to make it easier to hire international researchers.
- Investment in maths and technical education with an expansion of the Maths Mastery programme at primary schools, financially incentivising schools to increase the take-up of maths, further maths or core maths at A-level, encouraging the establishment of specialist maths schools around the country, piloting new approaches to improve GCSE Maths re-sit outcomes and £40 million to establish Further Education Centres of Excellence across the country to train maths teachers and spread best practice.
- Committing £84 million to upskill 8,000 secondary school computer science teachers and setting up a new National Centre for Computing to support schools with training.
- Continuing reforms of technical education by investing £20 million to help teachers prepare for the introduction of T-levels, keeping the operation and flexibility of the apprenticeship levy under review
- Measures to better understand the gender disparity in the take up of STEM subjects at A-level by improving the availability of data.
- Funding for a pilot that will give £1,000 to teachers in underperforming schools or areas of deprivation to be used on extra teacher training.
There is also a significant commitment to further devolution, for example a second devolution deal for the West Midlands. The details are yet to be unveiled, but in advance of the budget West Midlands Mayor, Andy Street, and a cross party group of midlands MPs were calling for the deal to include careers and skills policy and digital skills.
To address the significant skills challenges facing the construction industry, driven in part by the large investment in infrastructure projects, a National Retraining Scheme is being developed and will focus on construction skills.
EngineeringUK welcomes the new measures and looks forward to monitoring their impact through the State of Engineering report, our annual report analysing the supply and demand of engineering skills and STEM education.
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