Chris Grayling is MP for Epsom and Ewell, and Secretary of State for Transport.
When you look at the scale of what this Government has planned for the coming decade, it’s frankly breath-taking.
The recreation of our nuclear power industry; the construction of the biggest new railway in Britain for more than a century; the development of a universal ultra-high speed broadband system, and a 5G network; the expansion of our biggest airport; the construction of new road routes under Stonehenge and to the South West, under the Thames, and across the Pennines; and a massive investment in our existing road and rail system.
And that’s before you get to the bold plans of many of Britain’s biggest companies. In the energy sector. In aerospace. In technology – including a technology revolution in driverless vehicles and artificial intelligence.
The news is dominated by Brexit, but there is an exciting and dynamic decade ahead of us.
But delivering all of this represents an enormous challenge for us. It needs investment, smart planning, but above all skills. And there is no more important part of what we are doing than making sure we develop a new generation of engineers to make this projects and their successors possible.
That’s why 2018 is the Year of Engineering, a Government initiative supported by hundreds of major companies, charities, educational institutions and politicians. It’s all about exciting young people about the potential of engineering, and it’s something that people across our Party can be part of and help with.
One of the most surprising recent pieces of research I have seen was by Engineering UK, which showed that only one in three parents know what engineers do. And yet as a profession it offers their children the chance to play one of the most tangible possible roles in shaping the future of the country.
Building interest in engineering and then converting that interest into apprenticeships, college and university courses is absolutely essential not just to our programme of major projects, but also to the industrial strategy as a whole. That’s what the Year of Engineering is all about.
Over the course of 2018 there are events taking place all around the country. In January I was at the NEC in Birmingham to see major engineering firms from across the UK demonstrate some of their technologies to visiting students, and to give them a chance to learn a little about the opportunities that engineering could offer them. At the other end of the spectrum are the individual events in schools, with a showcase by local employers about what an engineering career entails.
In my own constituency, Atkins have converted their old headquarters building, an old stately home, into an engineering learning centre for local schools. We’ve opened the High Speed Rail College in Birmingham and Doncaster to train a new generation of rail engineers.
Throughout the year the campaign will highlight the role that engineering plays in everything from sport and special effects to social care, with inspiring activities being delivered by partners as diverse as Airbus, the Armed Forces, BAE systems, the BBC, Ocado, Usborne, Siemens, and Shell.
MPs are getting involved too. Stephen Metcalfe has been appointed as Government Envoy to the Year of Engineering and is visiting projects and events around the country. In Chippenham Michelle Donelan organised an Engineering Festival, which brought 3,000 schoolchildren into contact with local employers.
And so here’s the challenge. This is something that people across the Party can be involved in. If you are a school governor, you can help organise an event at your school. If you are a councillor, your local authority can help link up employers and schools and colleges. If you work for a major company, it can play a role in helping excite young people about engineering, or how they need engineering services to deliver their operations – whether through building a new office building or delivering the new IT systems that they require.
For years, governments have said that we do not have enough engineers. The Year of Engineering is designed to help change that. It’s about winning hearts and minds and attracting a new generation of engineers to help transform their and our futures. If you can help make it a success, please get in touch and get involved