The Government have supported a range of initiatives aimed at inspiring young people, including many girls, to take up engineering. Since 2010 the number of women starting engineering and manufacturing apprenticeships has trebled to 4,800. I am pleased that at the National Physical Laboratory in my hon. Friend’s constituency over half the apprentices are female. By protecting the science budget we are ensuring a strong science and engineering base that will benefit the entire country.
I urge the Minister to come to the NPL with me, because there are exciting projects there with graduates. I also invite him to Jack and Jill nursery school in my constituency, which is promoting engineering for six and seven-year-olds by inviting our great inventor Trevor Baylis to show them what can be done with Meccano sets. Will the Minister join me in asking toy manufacturers to make these kits for five-year-olds and upwards, instead of eight-year-olds and upwards, because we start really young in Twickenham?
I am always delighted to go to Twickenham. I am delighted also to welcome this very successful initiative. Twickenham, in this respect, is part of a much bigger national story in which we have more women-led businesses than ever before—about 1 million. As of 2014, 20% of all small and medium-sized enterprises in the UK are now majority led by women—an increase of 170,000 on the number in 2010.
It is really important to show young girls and boys the fantastic careers that engineering provides. To do that specifically for girls, we need engineering companies to engage with schools. What discussions is the Minister having with other Ministers to ensure that there is a central point where engineering companies can find the schools they can engage with?