Engineering has a long and proud history in Hartlepool.
The town – certainly the West Hartlepool bit of it – was built and prospered through engineering skills in the docks, railways, shipyards and steel mills.
Engineering is part of Hartlepool’s past, but also is the answer to our economic future.
I believe strongly that manufacturing and the engineering skills needed to make innovative new products are the key to Hartlepool’s future prosperity in this century.
Much of the economic promise in Hartlepool is down to engineering – whether it is designing and building oil and gas platforms as well as off shore wind turbines.
There is also a global demand for machine tools and components in which we have an historic skill and competitive advantage.
Hartlepool also has a nuclear power station, which requires well trained and experienced engineers.
In order to realise that future, the town obviously needs a deep pool of skill and talent.
That is becoming more pressing, as the current crop of engineers is now getting older.
The workforce is increasingly thinking about retiring as it gets into its late 50s, and industry needs to replace and replenish the stock of talent.
Given the huge economic promise – despite what The Economist might say – of the town, it is vital that young people are made aware of the exciting opportunities that exist in engineering.
That is why I support Tomorrow’s Engineers Week, which is taking place from November 4-8 and is designed to get young people thinking about a possible career in engineering.
If you consider a career in engineering, there is a great chance you will get a good job that pays very well.
Your standard of living and quality of life will be high and you will achieve enormous job satisfaction as well as having a good couple of quid in your pocket.
It is important we encourage engineering.
There is a huge mismatch at the moment. Engineering companies are on the lookout for new engineers but say to me that they are finding it increasingly difficult to recruit engineers.
At the same time, the town has a major problem with unemployment, particularly youth unemployment.
A pressing task is to try, as much as possible, to solve one economic problem by dealing with the other; in other words, to ensure that young people and the future workforce in engineering has the advice, skills and aptitude needed to give engineering companies the ability to recruit locally.
Another issue to tackle is the matter of women in engineering. For whatever reason, Britain is bad at attracting women into science and engineering – one of the worst records in the developed world, actually – and the North East is particularly bad.
Nationally, about 7 per cent of the engineering workforce is female. In Hartlepool, that figure is something like 1.7 per cent, and given the large rise in female unemployment in the town over the last three years, that is something that needs to be tackled.
This is a big social, cultural and economic challenge. Some of this is due to misconceptions about manufacturing and engineering, with people saying this country doesn’t makes anything anymore or that factories are unwelcome, dirty places.
That is becoming increasingly untrue. Manufacturing is an essential part of Britain’s economic success of the future, with engineering skills needed more than ever.
Hartlepool has the chance to shine with its engineering strengths, but we need to have everybody in the town – industry, schools, colleges and the public sector – shouting about how engineering is the future.