Prime Minister David Cameron yesterday (24 June) announced a new initiative that will help create 100,000 registered engineering technicians by 2018.

Working through new and established apprentice schemes, the initiative aims to provide structured on-the-job experience built upon a recognised academic qualification. On successful completion of their apprenticeships, and by ensuring the appropriate skills and competencies are reached, each apprentice will be able to attain the professional registration designation of Engineering Technician (EngTech).

The initiative has been created by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Institution of Civil Engineers, Institution of Engineering & Technology and the Gatsby Foundation in response to the emerging skills gap in the engineering and construction sectors.

Yesterday’s announcement was made alongside the full-size replica of the British Bloodhound Super Sonic Car on its first visit to Downing Street. The 13m jet and rocket-propelled car aims not only to beat the current land speed record of 763mph in 2014, but also to be the first land vehicle to exceed 1,000mph by 2015.

Current estimates suggest that the UK needs to double the pipeline of new recruits into engineering, construction and manufacturing professions by 2020 to avoid a severe skills shortage, which could inhibit the growth of these vital UK sectors.

Cameron said: “British engineering and innovation are a part of our history that we are rightly very proud of and our engineering excellence continues to change the world that we live in for the better. Bloodhound is a fantastic example of what our engineers can achieve.

“Apprenticeships are at the heart of our mission to rebuild the economy, giving young people the chance to learn a trade and to build their careers, creating a truly world-class, high-skilled workforce that can compete and thrive in the global race.”

Stephen Tetlow, chief executive of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, said: "The Institution and its partners are concerned that the number of people pursuing engineering careers is just not enough to meet the current and future demands of the engineering, manufacturing and construction sectors.

“To help UK companies succeed in this ever-growing competitive global marketplace, we need people with the highest professional skills and abilities. This initiative will ensure that the UK has a growing stream of engineering technicians being developed to a level that is recognised and respected around the world.

“We are pleased that Mr Cameron recognises the importance of engineering technicians to the UK’s engineering, manufacturing and construction sectors."

Professor Barry Clarke, president of the Institution of Civil Engineers, said: “If we want world-class infrastructure fit for the 21st Century, we must have a world-class engineering workforce to deliver it.

“Engineering technicians – who exercise very specialist skills and techniques and solve complex problems – form a vital part of the skills mix and ultimately help to deliver projects efficiently and on time.

“Our work to boost the number of technicians and ensure they are recognised in society is crucial if we are to have the right skills to meet the challenges ahead. The much-welcomed backing by the Prime Minister is testimony to its importance.”

Dr Tony Whitehead, director of policy at the Institution of Engineering and Technology, said: “Increasing the pool of home-grown technical skills in the UK is good for our economy and good for individuals. The pace of technological development in the modern workplace is creating an urgent and growing demand for higher levels of technical skill and professionalism.

“This initiative will help to meet the need to up-skill and increase the pool of home-grown talent. More engineering technicians in the workforce will help us to maintain a competitive edge and boost growth in the UK economy through innovation and creativity.”

The Prime Minister also met apprentices from a number of manufacturing and construction companies, including Perkins Engines, Caterpillar, Rolls-Royce, MBDA, Halcrow, BBMV, NG Bailey and Mott MacDonald. In addition, Year 10 pupils from Barclay School in Stevenage, who all hope to become engineers and scientists, will meet with the Prime Minister.

The Bloodhound SSC project was launched in 2008 to help inspire the next generation of British engineers and scientists. The record attempts will be undertaken in South Africa by wing commander Andy Green, the current world land speed and supersonic speed record holder.