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Engineering: Girls and People from Ethnic Backgrounds

Volume 649: debated on Thursday 22 November 2018

5. What steps his Department is taking to encourage more girls and people from ethnic backgrounds to pursue a career in engineering. (907768)

My Department launched the Year of Engineering to increase the number and diversity of engineers across the UK and to address the engineering skills gap. I am indebted to my hon. Friend for his tireless work as he criss-crossed the country, working with 1,400 partners to help us to deliver 1 million experiences to young people in his role as ambassador, or envoy, for the Year of Engineering, focusing particularly on girls and people from ethnic-minority backgrounds.

Over the past year, I have been greatly encouraged by the reaction that I have seen from young people as they come into direct contact with inspiring engineers from all backgrounds. Does my hon. Friend share my commitment to finding a way to carry on the good work of the Year of Engineering, so that we can continue to push the message that engineering is open to everyone, regardless of background, ethnicity and gender?

Absolutely. We are building on the legacy of this year, working with organisations ranging from Siemens, FIFA and Apple to the Science Museum, and we are committed to building on that work so that even more young people understand and appreciate the success of a career in engineering.

I congratulate the hon. Member for South Basildon and East Thurrock (Stephen Metcalfe) on the success of the Year of Engineering in promoting engineering as a fantastic career for everyone, but engineering is not just for one year; it is forever. Will the Minister follow Labour’s example and produce a diversity charter for the transport sector, so that the numerous initiatives—which are all very good in their own way—can be brought together, and we can see concrete progress and, most importantly, measure it?

The Year of Engineering has been a collaborative project involving more than 1,400 firms and partners. One of their objectives was to reach out to communities that may not have had experience of engineering. We have had some successes: young people in primary schools are thinking about engineering as a career, as are older students. We will work with our partners and see what more we can do, building on the work that we have done this year.

I had an opportunity to visit Northern Ireland with the hon. Member for South Basildon and East Thurrock (Stephen Metcalfe), and we thank him for coming. Northern Ireland has seen a 5% rise in female engineering students in the past two years. Does the Minister intend to target children in key stage 3, to initiate a passion for engineering in the early stages of secondary school applications?

Absolutely. We fully appreciate that girls in particular can close their minds to engineering at quite an early stage, at primary school. We want to work with young students throughout their school lives to ensure that they realise that it is a good career, and one that is open to them.