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Monday, 24 November 2014

Miliband: "Britain needs another 400,000 engineers to win the race to the top – let’s make it happen"

Labour Leader, Ed Miliband, writing on Facebook today, said: "The next election is not just a choice between parties. It is a choice about whether we build a recovery that works for most people or just a privileged few. And it is about a choice of two different directions for our country. Whether we build an economy with skilled, well-paid jobs like those at Crossrail, which I visited today. Or an economy with cowboy recruitment agencies, operating in the shadows of the economy, exploiting workers, undercutting wages and undermining conditions. At stake is the dignity of work, the security it provides and the fairness with which people are treated.

Only a Labour government will have the values, approach and ideas to turn the economy we have with low wage, low-skilled jobs into the economy we need, with high-skilled, high wage jobs. To transform our economy, we need to be tough against those who would undermine dignity at work, and we need government and business to lead a new drive as a country for the skilled jobs we need. 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. 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.

It is estimated we will need approximately 780,000 more engineers between now and 2020 to meet industry demand - 156,000 per year. Currently, we are training less than half that - leaving Britain with a shortfall of more than 400,000 engineers by 2020. 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. And we need to ensure Britain does not waste the talents of any our young people, be they men or women. It should be matter of national embarrassment that the UK has the lowest proportion of female engineering professionals of anywhere in Europe. In 2013, only 14 per cent of engineering graduates were women. And only four per cent of professionally-registered engineers are female.

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. We will work with schools to ensure more young people, girls as well as boys, do STEM subjects – Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths – to nurture this new generation. We will work with young people themselves, encouraging and inspiring them at every stage, with a clear vocational route through education into an engineering career that is desperately needed now. And we will work with industry to put employers in charge of the money for training young people so that as many school-leavers go into a high quality apprenticeship as currently go to university.

This is the kind of future we can build together, doubling the rate of engineers being trained here by 2020 rather than importing them from abroad or leaving businesses without the skills they need to succeed. But we will not change our economy and win the race to the top unless we halt the race to the bottom. That means tackling the low pay, exploitation, unfairness and insecurity so many people face when they go to work.

I believe the basic bargain of our country is that hard work should be rewarded. We will not tolerate a world of work that is becoming more brutal because of the way some rogue employment agencies have been allowed to operate. There has been a huge increase in temporary work in recent years and most employment agencies play their part in supporting businesses as well as workers who want flexibility. But there is now overwhelming evidence that some are driving down standards, increasing insecurity, and undermining the basic fabric of British life that hard work should be properly paid. Even the industry itself is expressing concern that rogue agencies are breaking the law on the minimum wage, failing to pay their taxes, and exploiting workers to undercut the wages of permanent staff.

These rogue agencies need to know their time is up and we will act. We will close the legal loophole which allows some to undercut the wages of permanent staff. We will stop them from recruiting exclusively from abroad. And we will serve notice on the rogue agencies that they must clean up their act. We will begin consultations now, even before the next election, on the different ways this can happen such as through a licensing system so we can be sure that agencies are complying with basic standards or stopped from operating.
The next election is the chance to take a new direction for our country: halting the race to the bottom and embarking once more on a race to the top where we build an economy that works for most people, not just a few. Britain is too unequal. We will change it. This is the mission for our party and the next Labour government."