Fears that the UK will face a critical skills gap in engineering disciplines were heightened today with the publication of figures showing that students are continuing to turn away from degrees in engineering.
The news comes as an industry-wide plan for an advertising campaign to encourage more students into engineering totters on the brink of collapse.
Official figures for applicants to 1999 degree and HND courses, released by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, show the numbers of applicants for mechanical engineering degrees have fallen 9.4% to 23,107. Joint degrees in engineering and technology have also attracted a declining number of applicants for the second year running, and HND entrants to the same disciplines have fallen even more steeply.
Concerns over an impending skills shortage led to last year’s proposal for a multi-million pound TV advertising campaign to boost the image of engineering.
But that project looks almost certain to be dropped because of lack of funding unless a handful of the biggest industrial companies agree over the next week to back the campaign with up to £500,000 each.
Having lobbied for financial backing since last summer, senior figures from the three engineering organisations behind the project will make a final bid for industry support during the coming week.
Lord Trefgarne, chairman of the Engineering and Marine Training Authority, Alan Rudge, chairman of the Engineering Council, and Graham Mackenzie, director general of the Engineering Employers’ Federation, will appeal to companies that include GEC and BAe.
So far only the DTI has pledged cash backing of £500,000, half the figure initially sought.