On Saturday at UKIP’s North East Conference, I had the pleasure of meeting a relatively new recruit to the Party, Stuart Hutton, who joins us from the Tories (as so many seem to be doing).
Stuart is an engineer and works with a major auto manufacturer. And he gave me a paper with his thoughts on industrial policy. His ideas seemed to me to make a great deal of sense, and I’d like to share them with you, but as they ran to 1000 words or so, I take the liberty of condensing them to bullet points.
Engineering (he says) must be integrated into both education and industrial policy. We need a GCSE in Engineering, and it must involve interesting and engaging real-life examples as projects.
Universities should consider cross-disciplinary final year projects or dissertations addressing practical ideas that could be commercially viable, so that training and team-work are directed to real-world opportunities. These should where possible involve mentors from local industry.
We should think again about university fees that apply equally to all disciplines and subjects. We should offer lower fees in economically-critical areas, to promote subjects with real-world economic relevance. We need to encourage bright youngsters from less affluent backgrounds to engage with the skills the economy needs.
Stuart proposes local “Technology Resource Centres” which would bring together relevant industrial equipment and test facilities which should be available to local companies and universities. This could assist in attracting investment and creating clusters of advanced industries.
Stuart also proposes that the term “Engineer” should be formally defined to signify a level of professional training and experience, in order to promote respect for engineering expertise; to attract bright people into the field; and to help ensure the availability of relevant skills.
He goes on to express concern about exactly the energy issues on which I have been writing and campaigning, urging shale gas exploration, plus more extensive exploitation of local hydro. He urges tax relief for long-term investment in major projects. And he calls for a British Quality Standard in Design & Manufacturing.
There are no easy answers, but it’s good to see this kind of positive and imaginative thinking from someone who is working in an engineering area, who is concerned about policy — and who has just come to UKIP. Well done Stuart.