Ian Swales MP writes…The crucial role of education in a manufacturing revival

The Lib Dem Spring Conference will debate the motion: Creating a strong manufacturing sector in a stronger economy. Part 3 of the motion calls for: ‘Government to continue its commitment to apprenticeships, and, additionally, to promote science education in schools and science and engineering degrees at universities – these are essential for building the skills sets necessary to support a strong manufacturing sector.’

Science and engineering education is an issue close to my heart as I actually graduated with a degree in chemical engineering from Manchester University.  My science based degree opened up many doors to me, leading to a career with ICI, in which I held a wide variety of financial and business management roles around the world.

This government believes that if we want the UK to remain a world leader in research and technology, we need a future generation that is passionate about science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).  Effective science teaching in schools is therefore essential, both for ensuring a satisfactory degree of scientific literacy in society at large, and for equipping the next generation of scientists and engineers to progress into higher education and beyond.  This Government has to do more to encourage science graduates to enter the teaching profession, as there remains a shortage of STEM teachers.

As well as a commitment to science education in our schools and universities, this Government is dedicated to encouraging young people to take up apprenticeships.  Participation in training schemes makes a lasting difference for young people, and supports efforts to stimulate economic growth and improve social mobility.

The Coalition has already introduced a number of policies that are helping young people find jobs, apprenticeships and work experience. With more than 665,000 apprentices in training last year, there is no doubt that apprenticeships are an increasingly important part of the country’s response to bringing forward a strong economic recovery.  Research shows that apprenticeships are a key way of training and developing workers for the future, helping businesses to secure a supply of high quality people with skills they need to boost productivity.

Whenever I speak to local manufacturing businesses in my area, a lack of trained workers remains a frequent concern. I welcome the excellent schemes that this Government has introduced to ensure our workforce has the necessary skills to compete in an ever-globalising job market.  We have a massive shortage of engineering skills in this country, and therefore we need to do even more to support manufacturing, exports and infrastructure, through investment in scientific education and apprenticeships.

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2 Comments

  • Helen Tedcastle 7th Mar '13 - 2:21pm

    @ Ian Swales MP: ” Effective science teaching in schools is therefore essential, both for ensuring a satisfactory degree of scientific literacy in society at large, and for equipping the next generation of scientists and engineers to progress into higher education and beyond. This Government has to do more to encourage science graduates to enter the teaching profession, as there remains a shortage of STEM teachers.”

    I agree that science teaching has to be effective but successive Governments have thrown money at science in schools – since 1988 – science trainees have very generous bursaries (more than other shortage subjects), their performance and leadership incentives again, are greater than in all other subjects; science is supported more by this Government than any other subject apart from Latin and MFL; it has very generous curriculum time as it has been a core subject since 1988 – and this is still not enough!

    As other subjects continue to be starved of cash, teacher training places, resources etc… while science is generously treated, it is clear that many children are just not turned on by a subject which saturates their school days – perhaps less is more?

  • Stephen Donnelly 7th Mar '13 - 9:10pm

    This is good, sensible stuff. The danger is that rather than fund existing infrastructure (schools, universities) the government invents new Quangos and sees its money spent on special pleading, or syphoned off by property developers and middle men.

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