RESEARCH published this week shows engineering is worth £225 billion to the south east's economy and employs 23 per cent of the region's workforce but despite this sector is suffering a skills shoetage and is finding it difficult to attract young people.

The findings by EngineeringUK, published during national Apprentice Week (March 5-9), also come during he Year of Engineering, a year-long campaign backed by the UK Government and industry to tackle the engineering skills gap and widen the pool of young people who join the profession.

Peter Finegold, head of education policy at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, said: “The EngineeringUK report makes strong economic and social arguments for keeping engineering skills at the heart of policy discussions around the future of our nation.

“There has been significant progress made by Government in promoting technical careers and there are some encouraging figures in the report on the number of young people who might consider a career in engineering. But the challenge is in translating these ‘possibles’ into ‘actuals’. Since there remains at the heart of our education system an ambivalence about vocational routes into careers, alongside a worrying lack of understanding about what engineering is or what engineers do.

“Solutions to this include fully resourced implementation of the Government’s careers strategy, as well as meaningful exposure to industry for pupils and their teachers. The point is reinforced by the fact that over half (58 per cent) of 11-14 year olds say they know little about apprenticeships.

“The supply of teachers is also key – good teachers are more important than good courses. Schools should be thought of as part of industry’s supply chain, as much as any producer of components. Which is why teachers must feel supported, respected and valued. The loss of STEM teachers in England is a major concern – 23 per cent of teachers who qualified in England between 2011 and 2015 have left the profession and Government urgently needs to look at how to reverse this trend.”

Stephen Tetlow, Chief Executive of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, said: “We face an exciting new technological revolution with all sorts of new opportunities for the next generation of engineers, and it has never been more important to think about how to find, inspire and nurture the engineers of tomorrow.

“The continuing skills gap in the sector must be addressed and it is essential we recognise that engineering talent is not governed by gender, ethnicity, faith, sexuality or disability.

“To ensure this happens we are calling on Government to work with the sector to examine how we might change the narrative around engineering in our schools and in wider society, so we attract and retain the brightest and best talent in the UK engineering sector.”