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Call to build manufacturing and engineering workforce

The Council for Industry and Higher Education has set out a series of goals it argues will help create a world-class manufacturing and engineering workforce by 2030.

It hopes to establish an Academy of Manufacturing and Engineering Leadership and an award to recognise university and business talent initiative in the field.

It says the academy could be funded by industry if companies were offered tax breaks to invest, as well as by funding from the government via funding councils such as the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

These are among the decisions set out in a report published by a CIHE-appointed taskforce on 25 October, “Great Expectations”.

“Strategic leaders will be the driving force of great expectations for manufacturing and engineering businesses, and the UK is in danger of falling behind in the development of its top-end talent,” reads the report.

“One of the Task Force’s deepest concerns was for the provision of development programmes for young talent to rival globally-excellent initiatives such as the Gordon-MIT Engineering Leadership Program, which is aimed at transforming ‘a highly motivated group of undergraduate students into engineering leaders who will fuel America’s technology engine.”

The report looks at how to lay the foundations now of a strong manufacturing and engineering workforce for 2030, while the generation of graduates needed is being born.

It has been published to coincide with the launch of a campaign to attract more young people to careers in manufacturing and engineering, called the Manufacturing and Engineering Talent 2030 Programme.

It recommends that universities should work closely with businesses to offer undergraduates work placements and promote communication skills as an important part of a degree alongside the development of technological expertise.

In its advice to government, the taskforce suggests ensuring that design and technology has “more academic vigour” and that the number of girls achieving a grade B or above in A-level physics should be included in school league tables. Targets should be set by schools to increase the numbers of girls achieving these grades.

Businesses should commit to a major mentoring scheme aimed particularly at girls under 14.

Having conducted a survey of female undergraduates, the CIHE concludes that schools need to focus on offering careers advice for girls to emphasise the importance of physics and maths and to highlight the high salaries on offer in these fields.