There has been much made of the future of UK manufacturing and engineering. Reports show that the UK is holding it’s own and that the future of manufacturing in the UK is good. The flip side of this good news, however, is the major concern over our engineers of the future. The UK still has a skills gap and when it comes to engineering we still have an annual shortfall of 55,000 people. The 2015 EngineeringUK report claims this shortage of skills is costing the UK £27bn a year.
The opening of a new training centre last week is aiming to prepare our engineers of the future. The Lloyds Bank Advanced Manufacturing Training Centre in Coventry is expected to provide the best training for engineers and technicians of the future through apprenticeships. With funding from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, Lloyds Bank and other industry support, the centre will support over 1000 trainees. The second round of apprentices started in September and are working on projects in robotics, 3D printing, intelligent automation and advanced metrology. The centre is providing a great opportunity for apprentices to work with companies involved in some of the most exciting research into advanced manufacturing methods and processes, providing them with a great insight into the type of career they could have in the sector.
Research hubs at Southampton and Brunel Universities have also just been granted funding. £20m of funds will come from the EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council) with a further £58m of funding from industry. Cars built from recycled metals and new manufacturing processes for emerging optoelectronics and just two of the targets of the new research hubs.
The Brunel University hub will be concentrating on the metallic materials industry focussing on increasing energy and material costs, environmental regulations and the skills shortages. Initially the area of focus will be on the automotive industry with wider scope to move on to the transportation sector. The hub has a vision where the global demand for metallic materials can be met by circulation of secondary metals. To do this they will be exploring methods to enhance and control nucleation based solidification; the process in which atoms of molten metals bond to form crystals, and will start with light materials such as aluminium.
The Southampton University will support the UK photonics industry. They will be helping companies improve their processes for the production of photonics and build prototype parts and sub systems. They will be a one stop shop for trialling ideas and developing new manufacturing processes. Researchers will be developing low cost manufacturing techniques for metamaterials. They will also focus on silicon photonics; investigating techniques to integrate silicon with fibre devices and light sources.
With investment in research , education and development of the next generation, there may well be hope that we can reduce that shortage of skills and maintain the future of British manufacturing and engineering.