Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Firms Must Unite to Fill Engineering Skills Gap; ENGINEERING

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Firms Must Unite to Fill Engineering Skills Gap; ENGINEERING

Article excerpt

Byline: ROBERT GIBSON robert.gibson@ncjmedia.co.uk

NORTH East engineering companies must collaborate in a focused effort to change perceptions of the industry if the sector is to fill the skills gap, a former government adviser has said.

Prof John Perkins, who was chief scientific adviser to the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills between 2012 and 2014, also addressed the need to increase apprenticeship numbers in the region as he addressed representatives from dozens of leading businesses at EEF's Gateshead site.

Prof Perkins, once president of the Institution of Chemical Engineers, is well-known in the industry for his Government-commissioned Review of Engineering skills, published two years ago.

Speaking to The Journal ahead of yesterday's event, he said this had not only highlighted the economic reasons for encouraging more young people to enter the sector, but the wealth of opportunities in an "exciting, well paid profession".

"The most important thing that needs to be done is to make sure as many young people as possible make an informed decision on their future careers," he said.

"There is a huge amount of ignorance about what modern engineering is really like.

"It's not about repairing central heating systems or working in dirty factories; it's a really rewarding career for life, working on challenging problems that can make a real difference to society."

The North East, he said, still boasted a wide range of top class engineering companies - many of them world-leading - who were enthused about bringing more young people in the sector.

But he said it was important to take proactive steps, such as organising visits or open days for schools - initiatives that can not only boost the students' understanding, but that of their teachers, helping them show how STEM subjects relate to the world of work.

Coordination would prove crucial, Prof Perkins said, particularly when it came to bringing more women into engineering. …

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