The need to tackle the skills gap

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Wiltshire Gazette and Herald Column 28 July 2016

A little over a year ago I had the privilege of delivering my maiden speech in Parliament, during which I set out my pledges to my constituents. I emphasised that the point is not where people come from but where they are going, and that the duty of MPs is to create opportunities for all.

Education is the key to enhancing opportunities and it enables us to start bridging the growing skills gap from young people leaving education and entering the workplace.

One of my key pledges to our area was to back businesses—to help them to create and retain jobs and to encourage more apprenticeships. We must inspire young people and empower them with the skills required to join some of the world leading companies right here on our doorstep; companies such as Siemens, Airbus, Dyson, Hitachi, Good Energy, Herman Miller, Moulton Bikes, the list is endless. In the past year I have visited more than 100 local businesses to learn more about what they need and what the Government can do to support them.

The more companies I visit, the more real the problem of the skills gap in technical, design and engineering roles becomes.

In September this year I will hold the inaugural Wiltshire Festival of Engineering, where more than 40 local manufacturing, design and engineering companies will meet with more than 1,200 local school pupils with the aim of inspiring the next generation of ‘makers’. I hope that it will also help showcase the impressive array of businesses locally and highlight that Wiltshire is a hub for this engineering.

I have invited the new Prime Minister and Education Secretary to join me at the Festival – for more information festivalofengineering.com.

Another important element to closing the skills gap is giving young people a practical taster of design and manufacturing. The best way, I believe, to do that is through the vastly improved design and technology GCSE and by including it within the English Baccalaureate qualification which is being more and more promoted by schools.

Regular readers of my columns will know that this is a subject that I have been ‘banging on about’ for a long time and earlier this year, I held a Westminster Hall debate on the topic.

This week I coordinated a letter to Theresa May and the new Secretary of State for Education Justine Greening calling for Design and Technologies including in the EBacc. I was pleased that 87 MPs joined in signing the letter and I hope we can see some progress soon. For more information on this important letter visit michelledonelan.com/ebacc

The skills shortage is a ticking time bomb and we must get to grips with it if we are to remain at the forefront of global product design and tackle our productivity crisis.

If you have any questions, comments or concerns do contact me on michelle.donelan.mp@parliament.uk