IET responds to Spring Statement
Alex Taylor, Head of Policy at the Institution of Engineering and Technology, said: “The Chancellor has set out his ambition to drive economic growth, skills and jobs in the UK.
“We welcome the decision to create 12 new investment zones around the UK and to accelerate the growth of innovation clusters. These will provide significant support for the technology sector, which underpins our future economic success. It supports levelling up and will lead to the creation of high skill, high paid jobs. This is clearly needed – in our recent research, 49% of engineering employers who reported a digital skills gap in their workforce, said that it harms productivity and 35% said it harms innovation. We hope this commitment continues in the long-term and becomes a catalyst for entrepreneurs and SMEs to develop technology-focused businesses successfully.
“Later-life apprenticeships to develop the skills and work prospects of the over 50s will provide an opportunity to re-skill and upskill the workforce. However, these measures do not go far enough – there is no mention of more training flexibility for others, such as repurposing the current apprenticeship levy. This would allow employers to upskill and reskill staff through accredited courses that meet their needs at the time of their choosing. Recent IET research shows that 58% of employers state that this would have the biggest impact in addressing skills shortages. Reforming the levy will support growth and innovation, and will help the Chancellor’s achieve his stated vision of making the UK a world leader in technology.
“Investment in nuclear, which is part of the solution to produce a decarbonised energy supply and dependable energy security, is positive. We must ensure nuclear energy technologies continue to be developed to further improve their safety, economic effectiveness and reduce their environmental impact. This will encourage the development of skills and high value careers in many engineering and technology disciplines.
“However, it’s disappointing that the budget contained limited specific measures to incentivise the transition to net zero. Measures in support of home insulation / retrofitting buildings would create a win-win-win scenario: a win for society, for industry and for the government. A long-term commitment from Government would give industry the confidence to invest in the workforce and in technology development. It would create a virtuous circle of upskilling, supply chain growth, production at scale and local economy expansion. This in turn would reduce prices for consumers as well as providing health and social benefits. It would give the economy a competitive edge in world-leading technology.
“Finally, strategic investment in Artificial Intelligence has the potential to transform many aspects of society, from healthcare to transportation – but to do this we more people with the right skills. More work also needs to be done to ensure that AI is developed in an ethical and responsible manner to unlock its full potential and benefits.”