Chancellor urged to use Budget to bridge skills gap

Chancellor Philip Hammond must support training and commit more backing to bridging the growing skills gap in engineering when he delivers his Autumn Budget statement.

Geoff Wilks, director at Manchester-headquartered civil and structural engineering consultancy TRP Consulting, says a shortage of talent across all sectors of engineering is beginning to “bite hard”. And he fears it could get worse.

He said: “The focus of the Budget will be very much on tax issues, infrastructure investment and the looming shadow of Brexit. However, we would urge the Chancellor to put some strong focus on investment in people and skills.”

That includes recruiting more STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) teachers in schools and more investment in developing the skills of the existing workforce, to meet the challenges of fast-emerging technological advances.

Wilks said:  “A shortage of people with the appropriate skills that all areas of engineering require is already starting to have a negative impact and it is set to get worse if we don’t act.

“The effect of Brexit on attracting talent from Europe is likely to also have a negative effect and the pace of technological change is another major and growing challenge for engineering.”

He added: “There has been much talk about the need to boost productivity. Having the skills to harness technological advances is vital to this.

“Businesses such as ours are continually investing in our staff. More commitment from the government would be welcome. This is vital for the health of the wider economy.

“Engineering UK has stressed the need to see more STEM specialist teachers in schools and to address the skills needs of the engineering sector as technological advances gather pace. The Chancellor needs to respond.”