Staying audible above electioneering

The Paul Jackson blog

The engineering community must be heard to influence the upcoming election manifestos, says the EngineeringUK chief executive

In the months building up to election manifestos, so much of the political rhetoric is built around ‘reviewing achievements’ or highlighting failures, depending on who’s giving the speech. We see a lot of re-launching of previous commitments to funding, so it’s increasingly important that we keep promises of progress audible despite all the noise.     

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Infrastructure is becoming ever more expensive

The Department for Business, innovation and Skills’ Manufacturing Summit last month was an opportunity to ask the difficult questions and make manifesto writers receptive to our solutions. When I asked the Deputy Prime Minister about the plans to develop a robust system for vocational routes, not unlike the UCAS system in place for universities, the answer was ‘we need to check’. Checking, reviewing – whatever you want to call it – is important but what you do next is arguably more so. Check, consult and make deliverable plans. The industry still needs investment, and the UK still needs more engineers. Industry summits are not solely for the purpose of a good photo opp; party leaders must know how the land lies, but also where the path leads. The engineering community is committed to keeping track of progress and to ensuring that support triggered by the Perkin’s Review remains on course, whichever party takes the helm in 2015.  

’It’s increasingly important that we keep promises of progress audible despite all the noise

The Institution of Civil Engineering (ICE) recent report, The State of the Nation: Infrastructure 2014, is a timely example of the engineering community holding Government to account, with a success and failure grading system across key areas of infrastructure, including energy, transport, flood management, water and waste. With no area of infrastructure deemed fit for the future, eyes will be on the parties to take note of its recommendations to build on the National Infrastructure Plan and make sector specific improvements.

At the ICE’s report launch, Lord Adonis made a salient challenge of his own: with infrastructure projects becoming ever more expensive, can the engineering community create solutions that will ensure projects can continue affordably, sustainably and remain efficient? Lord Heseltine’s concerns over skills have the answer: it all depends on skills.  

Although skills are undeniably the foundation of all future prosperity for every corner of the UK, Lord Heseltine was clear that most regions do not have the skills needed to meet demand, and was also adamant that actiom must be taken to correct this.

’Lord Heseltine was clear that most regions do not have the skills needed to meet demand

Working with the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and the Institution of Engineering and Technology, EngineeringUK is putting together a mid-term report based on findings from Engineering UK 2014  which sets out a clear need for action. We’ll be making a start by discussing these calls to action in July at a business and industry roundtable looking at skills and regional growth with Rt. Hon Liam Byrne MP Shadow Minister for Universities, Skills and Science, Rushanara Ali MP Shadow Minister for Education, and Rt. Hon Stephen Timms MP, Shadow Minister for Employment.

Regardless of any changes to the political power, as a community we need to set an agenda that Government cannot afford to fall short of – whether it’s as part of a Big Society or One Nation.