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'Engineering' mentioned only once in all party manifestos

Joseph Flaig

Stock image. Overlooking the importance of engineering could threaten the success of the next government's policies (Credit: © Rolls-Royce PLC/ This Is Engineering)
Stock image. Overlooking the importance of engineering could threaten the success of the next government's policies (Credit: © Rolls-Royce PLC/ This Is Engineering)

‘Engineering’ is mentioned only once in all of the party manifestos published ahead of the general election.

In more than 500 pages of the Labour, Conservative, Reform, Liberal Democrat, Green, SNP and Plaid Cymru documents, the word appears only once – a brief reference to “our extensive technological and engineering capabilities” in a Labour section on clean energy.

The near-total omission of references to engineering, revealed by Professional Engineering following a review of each party’s manifestos, could raise concerns that the profession is being overlooked and undervalued by politicians.

With persistent low levels of understanding of what engineers do, and skills gaps in several key sectors, ignoring such a fundamental industry might threaten the future success of many of the ambitious commitments made by the parties.  

“The lack of reference to engineering in the manifestos is disappointing,” said IMechE head of policy Matt Rooney. “There is a skills shortage in the sector, and part of the reason is a lack of understanding of the importance of the profession.”

He added: “The IMechE policy team have been analysing the background of parliamentary candidates, and we have so far not found many who have a background in engineering, so it is somewhat understandable.

“The importance of STEM is recognised, but sometimes the ‘E’ in STEM gets lost. We particularly need to promote engineering to young people so that they know what an exciting profession it is, especially if they want to work on big challenges like climate change. We also need to work hard to make sure that there is a greater culture and understanding of engineering in our schools.”

The institution is part of the National Engineering Policy Centre (NEPC), created by the Royal Academy of Engineering to enable the sector to speak to government with one voice.

An NEPC report recently urged the next government to create a National Engineering and Technology Workforce Strategy, to deliver a “diverse engineering and technology profession with the skills needed for the future”. Other recommendations included redoubling the commitment to net zero and future-proofing national infrastructure. An event will be held in parliament later this year to promote its aims to MPs.  

IMechE will work hard to advise the incoming parliament, Rooney added, including inviting MPs to its Westminster headquarters to offer expertise as they devise policies relating to technology and engineering.

Given the low levels of understanding of the profession, the next government has an opportunity to raise its profile and help ensure engineering voices are regularly heard.

“We would like to see more chief engineers across government, which would complement the large cohort of chief scientific advisors,” Rooney said.

“But we in the engineering community also need to lean in and make ourselves available. We should be speaking both to government when technical advice is required, and to the public to help them understand big issues like climate change and how engineering is central to solving them.”

Professional Engineering contacted the political parties for comment.  By 24 June, the SNP was the only party to have responded. 

The party's candidate for Angus & Perthshire Glens, former aircraft engineer Dave Doogan, said: “The SNP manifesto sets out a scale of ambition missing from those of the other major party manifestos. It sets out the need for a £28bn investment in the green economy of the future – and that net zero future will mean thousands upon thousands of skilled engineering jobs flowing from that focus on green growth.

“That capital investment, growing green energy and securing the supply chain alongside it, will secure and expand energy engineering jobs which already form a key part of the Scottish economy.”

He added: “We know the damage that Brexit has had on our research and educational institutes, which is why SNP MPs will always stand up for Scotland’s universities and STEM industries and call out the opportunities lost through Westminster’s botched Brexit deal, which has left the UK poorer socially, culturally and intellectually.

“The SNP wants Scotland to be a world leader in science and engineering – and with a vote for the SNP on 4 July, we can put Scotland’s interests first and create a future for engineering that’s made in Scotland, for Scotland.”

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Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.


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