THE Prince of Wales has raised concerns about the skills gap in engineering, warning that young people are missing out on hi-tech careers because of misconceptions about the industry.
In his introduction for a booklet to promote Scarborough Engineering Week, the Prince says he’s long been concerned about youth unemployment, and he expresses alarm at the lack of young people taking up engineering apprenticeships.
He writes: “I am keen to encourage young people to take up careers in areas where the United Kingdom has skill shortages.”
Scarborough Engineering Week, which is now in its fifth year, aims to encourage local children to take up careers in engineering, at a time when some local manufacturers are hiring staff from Eastern Europe because they can’t find the right people locally. Last year, the event attracted 2,700 pupils.
Many local businesses are supporting plans for a University Technical College (UTC) in Scarborough, which aims to reduce the skills gap by training youngsters who would be ready to work at local engineering firms. The Goverment is expected to make a decision on Scarborough’s UTC bid this month.
In his introduction to the engineering week booklet, the Prince says: “The work which Scarborough Engineering Week is promoting could hardly be more important or more timely.
“This year there will be around 87,000 vacancies in the engineering profession with only 51,000 qualified engineers available to fill the roles.
“Another alarming statistic is that there is a need for 69,000 Level Three engineering apprenticeships each year for the next 10 years, while only 27,000 young people are actually being recruited annually.
“This gap shows the scale of the challenge facing business, Government, education and voluntary organisations as they try to meet this growing demand.”
However, the Prince says that these statistics also show the scale of opportunity available to those who have the vision to grasp it.
He adds: “Young people are missing out on rewarding careers due to misconceptions about engineering being an out-moded and declining profession, rather than the fast-growing hi-tech and hugely diverse sector that it is.
“It is of vital importance to this nation that we inspire our young people to become the engineers of tomorrow.
“That is why I am so heartened by Scarborough’s splendid initiative and I am most grateful to local and regional businesses for taking the time to provide an insight into careers, not just in engineering but also in the core skills of science, technology and mathematics which are essential to success in this field.”
The Prince sends his “warmest greetings” and wishes the organisers “every possible success”.
Peter Wilkinson, an executive director of Unison, the Scarborough-based tube bending machine manufacturer, said yesterday: “Prince Charles is renowned for being outspoken and really sincere in his comments.
“This gives us real Yorkshire clout.”
The UTC concept has been created by the Scarborough Business Ambassadors’ Forum, which organises engineering week. Sheffield already has a UTC, which opened last year. Mr Wilkinson was a member of a delegation from the forum that met officials from the Department for Education last month to discuss the UTC bid. He said the points made by the Prince in his introduction are aligned to the position in Scarborough, where 15 engineering businesses are competing to find staff.
“We want the UTC to bridge the skills gap,’’ he said.
He said that this year’s Scarborough Engineering Week, which is being held from Monday October 13 to Thursday October 16, is expected to attract around 4,000 pupils.
A Department for Education spokesman told the Yorkshire Post that it was considering Scarborough’s UTC bid along with other applications received.
The spokesman added: “Once all proposals have been fully evaluated, we will notify applicants of the outcome.”