Cameron launches drive to register 100,000 technicians

The prime minister has launched a scheme to increase the number of registered engineering technicians in the UK eightfold by 2018.

Architects of the scheme, which aims to register 100,000 extra people with the protected title “engineering technician” (EngTech) in the next five years, hope it will increase skill levels and raise the status of technicians, in order to recruit more people to the profession and help meet anticipated demand.

David Cameron announced the the joint initiative by three of the major engineering institutions at Downing Street yesterday, where he was joined by the team behind the Bloodhound land speed record attempt and a life-size replica of the car.

The scheme will involve marketing the benefits of registration based on new research and will particularly target apprentices. Registering every new engineering technician expected to complete their apprenticeship in the next five years would meet the 100,000 target.

Stephen Tetlow, chief executive of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE), said in a statement: ‘The Institution and its partners are concerned that the number of people pursuing engineering careers is just not enough to meet the current and future demands of the engineering, manufacturing and construction sectors.

‘To help UK companies succeed in this ever-growing competitive global marketplace, we need people with the highest professional skills and abilities. This initiative will ensure that the UK has a growing stream of engineering technicians being developed to a level that is recognised and respected around the world.’

The Technician Council estimates that the UK will need to recruit 450,000 people working at technician level or equivalent in the fields of science, engineering and technology by 2020 in order to meet demand due to expansion and older workers retiring.

Engineering UK’s latest annual report found that 30 per cent of firms already report difficulties in recruiting technicians.

According to Kevin Dinnage, who heads the Engineering Council’s technician registration and membership project, there are currently around 14,000 technicians with EngTech status in the UK but around 1m who are eligible to register.

‘Every year about 20,000 people come through with apprenticeships and that will probably increase,’ he told The Engineer. ‘If we can have more apprentice schemes that are accredited as leading to EngTech then you can bring whole cohorts across.’

He added: ‘It’s all about upskilling and then as a consequence, to make the link with jobs, if we can increase the number of registrants we will raise the profile and the status of engineering technicians, which will in itself attract people.’

The scheme is being run by the IMechE, the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) and the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), using seed investment provided by the Gatsby Foundation, one of the Sainsbury Family Charitable Trusts.