Engineering and manufacturing is a key component in Wales’ economy, it currently accounts for 16% of the Wales’ economy which is higher than any other UK region. The future of engineering and manufacturing in Wales is widely discussed and there is a certain degree of uncertainty due to the British exit from the European Union, this will be discussed more in the main part of the report.
Importance of engineering and manufacturing in Wales
Engineers are an extremely important asset in Wales and throughout the entire world, this is because they have effected everything you can see from the ancient world to the modern world, this includes buildings, transport, technology and more.
Engineers not only design new things but they also instigate the creation of jobs in order to build their designs, this alone has led to 5,000 jobs being created every month in the UK alone, this is a total of 60,000 jobs every year.
The current situation of engineering and manufacturing in Wales
There are currently 165,000 manufacturing jobs in Wales which accounts for 16% of the population, since the recession, Wales has seen the highest growth in manufacturing jobs in UK, the number of jobs increased by 17% between 2010 and 2016.
Wales’ exports account for 4.3% of the UK’s total exported manufactured goods, 41% of Wales’ exports go to Europe, this is the lowest of all the UK regions. This is due to Wales exporting 25% of its manufactured goods to North America and 14% to the Middle East, which is the highest of any of the UK regions. This means that the other markets, such as Eastern Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America fall below the UK average.
The future of engineering and manufacturing in Wales
The UK will need at least 1 million more engineers by 2020, 2500 of which would need to be based in Wales, according to the Royal Academy of Engineering, this means that we would need to double the current number of graduates and apprentices.
To try and tackle this shortage governments in the UK are currently trying to encourage more women to enter the engineering field as less than 10% of the engineering workforce is composed of females.
Many governments are attempting to encourage more people to enter the engineering workforce in many ways, these include conferences, workshops and multiple schemes to encourage apprenticeships, individual companies are also trying to encourage apprenticeships by offering to pay for people to get their engineering qualifications and degrees and also guaranteeing employment provided that they obtain the required grades and levels in their studies.
An extra £850,000 of EU funding will be invested into the engineering sector of Wales, this funding will allow Swansea University’s materials and manufacturing academy to offer more qualifications involving industry led research projects, which will help boost the engineering sector, this increases the total funds to £14.8m for the materials and manufacturing academy, £9.5m of this is EU funding.
150 students are undergoing collaborative research projects alongside major companies in hopes of developing new technology that can boost their industries. This extra funding will allow a further 16 graduates to be recruited.
£830m has been invested so far into the structural funds for the 2014-2020 period, this is 43% of the total needed, this puts Wales ahead of any of the other UK regions.
“This additional EU funding will allow us to further assist Welsh industry through our leading research and innovation, creating a pool of graduates who are poised to become the next industrial leaders” – Dr David Warren (Swansea University’s materials and manufacturing academy project manager)
Another scheme is the EESW, which stands for Engineering Education Scheme Wales, this scheme is being used to encourage sixth form students to study engineering courses at higher or further education. It works by using local companies by setting research and development projects based on actual industrial problems for groups of year 12 students, the students are tasked with solving these problems over a 6 month period with co-operation from engineers and scientists. The scheme hopes that by giving the students a positive experience working with professionals in an industrial setting that they will see that the STEM areas are diverse and can provide an intellectually challenging career.
Effects due to British exit from the EU
The manufacturing output level could be greatly decreased due to Britain having a lesser level of access to the trade market in the EU, although a trade agreement is likely to be negotiated, it is likely that the access to the EU market will greatly penalise our manufacturing output.
Many large manufacturing companies such as nestle, Nissan and Airbus UK have considered moving their manufacturing lines out of the UK due the currency risk and cost of doing business outside of the EU trade market, however they have shown that although they may have a decrease in profits, the benefits of remaining in the common market outweigh the disadvantages of remaining in the UK.
In conclusion I think that the future of engineering and manufacturing is still in a degree of uncertainty as there are many factors that affect the engineering and manufacturing industry, especially with the soon to be departure of the UK from the EU, this could lead to a rise or fall in the economy over long and short term periods. At this moment in time I believe that the engineering and manufacturing industries will overall benefit from Brexit and that other problems such as not enough engineers will become a thing of the past as there are multiple government and private schemes in place to encourage people to take up an education and career in engineering and manufacturing.
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