Engineering had its big chance for the political limelight last week. An adjournment debate in the House of Commons, prompted by the launch of the Year of Engineering Success, was an ideal platform to champion engineering’s successes and lobby for its needs.
The text in Hansard shows that Michael Fabricant, MP for Mid-Staffordshire and one of just six chartered engineers in the house, put the case well.
Fabricant proposed two remedies – to broaden the education system and raise the status of engineering. His idea for the latter is to create a statutory register of engineers.
He argued that this was the ideal way to ensure that the term engineer was used correctly and to encourage more students to study engineering.
But Fabricant’s efforts were in vain. Just three MPs made it to the chamber to take part in the debate – a woeful proportion of the 99 MPs who are members of the Parliamentary Group on Engineering Development. And politicians’ indifference rubbed off on the public. As the debate started the public gallery cleared, leaving a small gathering of engineering association employees to form the audience.
To illustrate the low level of engineering in the minds of the general public Fabricant points to the Engineering and Marine Training Authority’s Mori poll carried out at the end of last year. `How much do you know about engineering?’ the 14 to 16 year-olds were asked . Not very much, answered 45% of them. Nothing at all, said 39%.
Judging by last week’s turnout – MPs would not fare any better.