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Blog of the month: Former business secretary Vince Cable comments on the industrial challenges facing Theresa May’s government. Credit: The Engineer. To read full article please click here.

It is greatly reassuring that Mrs May’s government has rediscovered Industrial Strategy. But there is little sign, yet, that it understands the engineering underpinnings required for a strong manufacturing sector and communications infrastructure. And at a time when it is crucial to tackle the long-term underlying fundamentals of the economy, the government will now spend several years immersed in the details of Brexit negotiation.

Government must understand the underpinnings of a successful manufacturing sector. The longstanding failure of government and the educational establishment to understand the importance of engineering has left the country with major gaps in the chain of skills. All the evidence we have is that there are potentially very large gaps between supply and demand at most levels.  


The use of European talent to plug the gaps in recruitment will now become more difficult given the overriding preoccupation of the Prime Minister with reducing immigration numbers. At the graduate level, many of our engineering schools are being kept afloat by overseas students
. Yet the Home Office obsession with curbing net immigration numbers has meant that there is little encouragement and much discouragement for overseas students to stay behind after graduation and progress into British industry.   Brexit threatens to make this problem worse since the use of European talent to plug the gaps in recruitment will now become more difficult given the overriding preoccupation of the Prime Minister with reducing immigration numbers regardless of the economic cost. It is, of course, desirable to produce home-grown talent but that requires years if not decades of preparation. The level of maths performance in British schools remains very poor as has been painfully demonstrated in the annual OECD Pisa rankings which has the UK at 27th, a decline of one place since last year and way behind Germany and Japan and most members of the EU.






        

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