The Royal Academy of Engineering said today that businesses must think nationally and act locally. Speaking at the Conference ‘Somerset in Business 2006: Unlocking Potential’, Dr Richard Wilson, the Academy’s Director of Communications, said:

“We live in a world where many of our competitors have a better qualified workforce than ourselves - Germany has roughly twice as many adults qualified to level 3 as the UK. China educates over two million graduates every year and can produce many goods and services far more cheaply than ourselves.

“UK businesses have to move upmarket, innovate and produce high value added goods. This in turn means that UK firms need an educated, skilled and trainable workforce. Increasingly, for many UK firms, trying to compete on the basis of low skills is like a man in a car trying to accelerate with the handbrake on.”

Yet nationally 14% of adults of working age have no qualifications at all. In Somerset, this figure rises to 28%.

Wilson continued:

“We desperately need to drive up qualification attainment levels in order to surmount skill shortages and skill gaps. According to the South West of England Regional Development Agency, 65% of all job vacancies in the engineering sector require a higher level of skill than is currently available. Other sectors and industries also have difficulties filling vacancies.

“The Government must redouble its efforts to improve basic skills, drive up qualification attainment levels, adequately fund FE colleges and provide opportunities for those qualified in vocational subjects to progress to higher levels of education.

“Employers must continue to invest in training and work in partnership with awarding bodies, colleges, training providers and others. Employers should also aim to learn from best training practice from organisations such as the Adult Learning Inspectorate and the Quality Improvement Agency.

“The Royal Academy of Engineering also has a part to play. We promote a continuum of curriculum enrichment schemes in science, engineering and technology called the Best Programme. The schemes are designed to inspire thousands of young people in schools, colleges, universities and beyond to develop a passion for science, engineering and technology.

“Government, employers and the Academy all have roles to play in creating a better educated and qualified workforce.”

Notes for editors

  1. Founded in 1976, The Royal Academy of Engineering promotes the engineering and technological welfare of the country. Our fellowship – comprising the UK’s most eminent engineers – provides the leadership and expertise for our activities, which focus on the relationships between engineering, technology, and the quality of life. As a national academy, we provide independent and impartial advice to Government; work to secure the next generation of engineers; and provide a voice for Britain’s engineering community.

For more information please contact

Dr Richard Wilson at The Royal Academy of Engineering