STEM, STEM, STEM

27 May

Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, fallen asleep yet ? These subjects do not raise the pulse of many, let alone young people. They have been discreetly dropped by many students for a long time,  leading to a problem for England’s (and UK’s) future economic success.

Recently Nissan gave a press release for release date for The Nissan Leaf in the UK (February 2011). The first 50,000 cars will be made in Japan, with production then moving to Sunderland in 2013. It will be one of the first major electric cars made in the UK.

This raises a number of questions.

Electric cars do away with the need for Petrol. Britain has 31 million cars on the road contributing to some £25 billion in fuel duties to the government. This revenue will slowly dry up unless the Government finds other energy to tax. If we see the petrol replacement (electricity) taxed to compensate we will see a large hike in home utility bills.

Electric engined cars will greatly reduce engine damage and need fewer parts and maintenance. This will add to large job losses in Petroleum and auto repair related industries (mechanics, garages, parts specialist and scrap).

We are looking to new manufacturing, green energy and power to take up an extremely large number of jobs, and revenue. Is the UK ready or preparing for this revolution in jobs and revenue substitution ? let us ask industry about our obvious foresight and planning.

One company that makes engines is JJ Churchill, recently is Managing director said

JJ Churchill has an excellent staff retention record. Historically, advertising was never needed to fill vacancies and many senior managers began their careers on its apprenticeship scheme. “Then, about two years ago, we found we could no longer fill vacancies by word of mouth. Despite our growing expenditure and effort in recruitment, we are struggling to find the quality and commitment we need and the situation is steadily getting worse,” he explained.

And they are not alone.

“Skills gaps are rife throughout many areas of manufacturing; in the advanced and emerging industries, around which the UK wants to centre it’s ‘new economy’, they are in severe deficit. The situation looks set only to get worse as an ageing work force fetches its pipe and slippers throughout this decade. “

Only yesterday Thales which makes software for military and civilian applications announced that it’s Wells factory will close down due to buildings being unmaintainable. Their main priority is not to recruit elsewhere, but to try to keep its 550 employees and move them to other factories. “We understand that this is a challenging time, but our employees are our most important asset and are they are key to our success”. Simply there are not enough skilled workers out there, companies are doing all they can to maintain what they have.

We will see a reduction in government income from petroleum-based industries, fewer jobs in petroleum, car parts, servicing and maintenance industries. Resulting in a need for more manufacturing, green production and energy jobs. However we have no clear plan on how to do this. We cannot afford to lose the jobs and revenue without replacing them in new technologies. We are nowhere near to tackling these issues, we will have problems unless the coalition make greater strides in correcting the situation. If not ?

“So we then advertise for young people who are looking for work and they invariably tend to be the ones that haven’t been successful in other more fashionable industries and therefore they are generally a lower quality of candidate.” at a recent business breakfast set up for local firms to discuss apprenticeships, two manufacturers reported that their 20 year strategies include potentially moving production to Asia. This is not because of any perceived cost benefits but because they feel there will not be the necessary skills in this country to support their operations. “It broke my heart to hear that,” Jackie Freeborn the Chief Executive of Business ; Education South Yorkshire.

We are moving towards correcting these problems, but much, much more needs to be done to make England into a economic manufacturing powerhouse.

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