Ed Miliband has said Britain’s lack of female engineers should be a “matter of national embarrassment”, as he called for an extra 400,000 people to be trained in the profession by the end of the decade.
Writing on Facebook, the Labour leader said the UK needed about 780,000 engineers by 2020 to meet industry demand, but the country is training less than half of that.
“If we are going to win the race to the top in the 21st century, we have to re-establish our historic reputation as a world leader in technology and manufacturing,” he wrote. “We need to equip our businesses with the skills they need to succeed. But the UK is facing a crisis in the number of engineers being trained up.
“This is not just a shortage of the traditional civil, mechanical and electrical engineers, but also in information technology, green energy, and life sciences where many of the jobs of the future will be created.”
Miliband also criticised the lack of female engineering professionals in the UK, saying it was the lowest proportion of any country in Europe.
“In 2013, only 14% of engineering graduates were women. And only 4% of professionally registered engineers are female,” he said. “The next Labour government will seek to put the UK back at the forefront of invention, technology and engineering with a national mission to create an extra 400,000 engineers by 2020. We are determined to make it happen. And we have a plan to make it happen.”
Labour would work with schools to ensure more young people, girls as well as boys, study science, technology, engineering and maths subjects, he said.
Miliband also argued in favour of putting employers in charge of the money for training young people so that as many school-leavers go into a high quality apprenticeship as go to university.
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