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Future Government must safeguard access to engineering and technology skills

15 May 2017


Maintaining access to engineering and technology skills post-Brexit, together with developing a long-term Industrial Strategy for Britain, are important General Election issues – and are at the forefront of the Institution of Engineering and Technology’s (IET) General Election Campaign, which launched today.

All major political parties have endorsed the need for an Industrial Strategy and a strong digital economy for Britain – and their potential to boost the nation’s economy, so the IET is calling for these issues to be at the forefront of the policies the political parties are proposing ahead of the General Election.

IET President, Jeremy Watson CBE, says: “The new Government must take a long-term view and recognise the inter-dependencies between infrastructure, skills and innovation. Without this, we’ll miss invaluable opportunities to boost the nation’s economy.

“The country now faces choices which will be the most important in a generation. Britain needs to forge new relationships both at a global level and with the European Union, ensuring it maintains vital access to skilled labour, sustains UK involvement with pan-national scientific and technical research, and retains and develops an independent leading role in global technical standards. It also needs to ensure these new relationships open up new opportunities in a fast-moving, innovative, creative world.”

In its General Election Campaign, the IET says the industrial strategy should involve a programme of co-ordinated actions for finance, academia and industry to support innovation, the further growth of engineering and the scaling up of more SMEs to become global companies.

It also calls on the future Government to introduce new policies in digital, energy, education, manufacturing and transport:

  • End imbalance between higher education and technical education with closer collaboration between Government and industry to provide training in order to produce the skilled workforce needed for a future digital economy. Particularly important are retraining opportunities to enable employees to adapt and exploit the rapid changes expected as a result of new technology.

  • Invest in our national infrastructure across transport, energy and digital communication infrastructure, which together with a skilled workforce and a climate of innovation, provide the building blocks for prosperity.  Priority should go to infrastructure that maximises future wealth-creating opportunities.

  • Encourage innovation by championing key technology such as the new 5G network. The UK needs new systems of regulation, bringing together private and public sectors, Ofcom and Government – both at national and local level – to create a flexible open system which can keep pace with the rapid evolution of mobile communications.  

  • Prioritise cyber security. The growing digital economy, characterised by an increasingly connected world and vulnerability of critical infrastructure to cyberattack, means organisations and engineers must be ready and trained in all aspects of cyber safety: system design, information processes and good practice.

  • Raise energy efficiency up the political agenda. Greater energy efficiency in both the industrial and domestic sectors would make a huge contribution to energy savings for the nation and those who pay the bill. Using energy more efficiently is less expensive than building new power generation.

  • Make sure public policy reflects the new demands that a low carbon future places on today’s energy system. The UK needs to make a step change to how it governs the electricity sector as we move towards decarbonising the UK’s energy system. The focus should be on enabling and empowering consumer-centred innovation using an inclusive and agile approach to ensure secure and affordable energy for all.

Notes to editors:

To read the full IET General Election Campaign, please visit www.theiet.org/election2017.