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Peter Luff MP: Addressing the deficit of engineers and scientists

Peter Luff MP has a ten minute rule motion on Science Technology and Engineering careers information in schools. He argues that our future depends on more young people studying STEM subjects.

The biggest risk to the UK’s prosperity and security is undeniably the deficit. But what’s the second biggest risk? I say it’s the shortage of young engineers and scientists, and we’re not doing enough yet to address it.

During my time as a Defence Minister in this Parliament and as Chair of the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee in the last, I heard time and time again that there just weren’t enough apprentice and graduate engineers to meet demand, but this is not a new discovery. Indeed, we’ve been talking about our skills shortage for years.

This government, and to an extent the last Labour administration, have put a real emphasis on skills policy, however my concern is that too much of the activity we are undertaking at present comes too late and after children have already made crucial choices about the subjects they enjoy and want to pursue.

In my view not enough is being done to inspire children in school years 6 and 7 (10, 11 and 12 year olds). It is in these early years that children form opinions of the subjects and unless they realise the importance of doing well in maths and physics, they will never be able to pursue engineering or science careers.

Our future security and prosperity depends on our future generations. In this global race and as other countries push ahead, our world–class civil engineering consultancies will find themselves challenged without a pool of talent. And our resilience and security over a wide range of threats - from food and water to cyber and defence - depend on getting more engineers.

On Wednesday February 13th I will introduce a Ten Minute Rule Bill in the Commons that begins a two-year campaign. The bill aims to make it more likely that young people – and especially girls – will be exposed to the excitement that is modern engineering so that more of them are inspired to take up careers in these subjects.

My Bill is a first statement of the sort of things I believe need to be done and I am very encouraged by the support I have already received, from MPs on both sides of the house and from the major engineering organisations and institutions, including the Royal Academy of Engineering, Engineering UK, the Engineering Council, the Institute of Civil Engineering and the Institute of Mechanical Engineering, who agree that this is the right step at the right time.

Of course, I appreciate that there is very little chance of this Bill making it onto the statute book but my main hope is that the spirit of it will be adopted and that more young people will choose to study STEM subjects at school - I believe our future depends on it.

Peter Luff's ten minute rule motion: Science Technology and Engineering (Careers Information in Schools) Bill