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Mean on Monday: engineering is at the centre of our economic heart

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Engineering and engineers are at the centre of Gloucestershire’s beating economic heart.

It was from our county that the first jet engine was developed and flown.

And I believe that apprenticeships in manufacturing and engineering skills for which Gloucestershire is world-renowned must be encouraged.

That’s why I support the great work being done for the county by GET-Gloucestershire Engineering Training based at Barnwood.

It’s a unique organisation in that it is owned by the engineering companies of Gloucestershire-firms like Renishaw, Spirax Sarco and Saffran.

Companies like these really are the jewels in the crown of this county’s industrial heritage where something like 87% of the businesses in Gloucestershire are involved in engineering of some kind.

So, I was privileged to be at GET’s awards evening at Kingsholm to recognise the achievements of their young engineering apprentices.

It was an inspiring event and good to see young women engineers featuring prominently.

And one of our top women engineers, Lucy Ackland of Renishaw, gave an inspiring speech to the young engineers, their employers and proud parents.

She had seen a newspaper advertisement for an apprenticeship at Renishaw.

But she said her teacher was “horrified” at her idea.

“She didn’t get it,” said Lucy. ”She told me it was one of the worst decisions I could make at that time.”

How wrong that teacher was. 

And how wrong some of our teachers are in not encouraging apprenticeships but often pushing our young people towards university.

Lucy has now been at Renishaw for 18 years, and in 2017 she was named as one of the UK’s Top 50 Women in Engineering.

In fact, women now make up to 16.5 percent of all engineers in the UK.

Lucy’s message to the young GET award winners was simple:

“Don’t be afraid to walk your path. You have to find what you love-you are the next generation, the next inventors.”

Lucy is a real trailblazer for women engineers and Gloucestershire is proud to have her spreading that message.

We need to encourage our young engineers—they are our future.

And to our new Prime Minister, I would say you must now put more government support behind apprenticeships.

*Ian Mean, MBE is vice chair of GFirstLEP and Business West Gloucestershire director

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