Prime Minister Gordon Brown reaffirmed his government’s commitment to a new generation of nuclear power plants this week (see post below). All well and good, but is such an energy emphasis even possible, given an expected shortage of engineers? A Labour MP is asking the right questions (from Hansard):
Dr. Ashok Kumar (Middlesbrough, South and East Cleveland) (Lab): Following on from what my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mrs. Curtis-Thomas) said, has the Secretary of State seen the recent report published by the Royal Academy of Engineering, “Educating Engineers for the 21st century: the Industry View”? It reached one alarming conclusion:
“Over the next ten years the UK is facing an increasing shortage of high calibre engineering graduates entering industry”.
Given that we are heading towards nuclear power as the one option that we are going to follow, what measures is he taking to ensure that we have nuclear engineers for the future? They need to commission, build and run those power plants. What effort is he making to ensure that we have that sort of engineer in 10 years’ time?
Mr. Hutton: I welcome what my hon. Friend says and will repeat what I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby. We have to address the skills base of the energy sector. That is primarily a responsibility for my right hon. Friend the new Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills. I will work closely with him and his new Department in ensuring that Britain has the engineers and technical experts we need if we decide to go down the nuclear route.I want to make one other point clear; it is the Government’s preliminary view that companies should have the opportunity to invest in new nuclear, but that will be alongside a range of diverse energy supplies, including renewables and gas.
MP John Hutton is the new head of restructured Department of Business and Enterprise, which this BBC report says is interested in fostering better ties with business. Policies that promote a broad base of energy production are a good place to start.
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