Last week I had the pleasure of welcoming Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills, Chuka Umunna to Perry Barr. He came on my recommendation to visit the excellent new Engineering Employers Federation (EEF) training centre in Witton. As you may know after leaving school I took an engineering apprenticeship so I appreciate the importance of a good start. I have been a big fan of the work of the EEF for many years so I was delighted when they choose our constituency as the base for their training centre. The centre gives young men and women a vital entry point into what remains a very good career.
Britain needs well qualified engineers to work in a vast range of industries from drilling for oil to building railways. A lack of training opportunities for youngsters has led to an over reliance on workers coming from overseas and left many young people without the skills to secure proper employment on a good wage. I was fortunate that at the time when I left school such opportunities still existed.
Alongside EEF we also have the Wilmot Dixon training centre in Witton and coming soon the HS2 college which will train future generations of rail engineers. The opportunities are now in place but we need to make sure our young people are in a position to take advantage of them, that means we must firstly ensure they get the qualifications they need from school, secondly that they have ambition to succeed in what is a very complex career and thirdly that girls and boys have an equal chance. The final part of the picture that must be place is a strong economy with government investment in key infrastructure. This government made a huge blunder when it cancelled almost all big capital projects in 2010 this crippled the economy and is now forcing us to play catch up. Areas like power supply and school building will take years to recover. We can avoid such short termism but it requires a bold government with ambitions for this country that stretch decades into the future.