The UK’s engineering sector needs to draw talent from the European Union (EU) and work in partnership with it to achieve the best possible post-Brexit outcome, according to a new report.
The government must set out an industrial strategy, in partnership with industry and academia, to ensure that engineering continues to contribute to £280bn in gross value added to the UK economy each year.
The report led by the Royal Academy of Engineers, called Engineering a future outside the EU: securing the best outcome for the UK was put together after a consultation with all the UK’s professional engineering organisations, including industry, the public sector and academia.
It says a supply of skilled engineers from the EU is essential to the UK engineering sector and a shortage could result in delays to major projects such as High Speed 2 or Hinkley Point C. The report suggests developing a shortage occupation list for those sectors of the profession where there are difficulties filling vacancies and making it easier for EU workers to take those jobs. This could be done via temporary visas or making intra-company transfers easier.
In the area of research, development and innovation, the report warns that losing access to EU funding programmes poses a risk, and UK/EU collaboration in this field has already been scaled back. Therefore, the government should “seek the closest achievable association with relevant EU programmes” as well as developing long-term funding streams, if needed, which enable more collaboration.
Attracting foreign direct investment is key to the future, according to the report, and the government can help by lowering the cost of doing business in the UK. Cyber security laws also need to be in line
“For many we have consulted over the last two months, plans to trigger Article 50 raise questions about our ability to train enough skilled engineers to meet the country’s needs, to attract the brightest and best international talent to the UK to address specific skills shortages, and to collaborate with colleagues in non-UK European Union countries in a way that accelerates innovation that is of value to wider society,” said Royal Academy of Engineering president Dame Ann Dowling.
“As government develops its plans for a renewed focus on industrial strategy, we hope it will use this opportunity to build on the UK’s existing strengths in engineering research, innovation and industry to grow their contribution to economic and social progress, and to invest in increasing the supply of skilled engineers necessary to sustain this growth.
“The UK engineering community is committed to building on its international reputation, and stands ready to support the government in securing from the negotiations the best possible outcome for the UK.”