Page last updated at 12:47 GMT, Tuesday, 26 August 2008 13:47 UK

Teenagers shun engineering jobs

By Dave Harvey
BBC Points West Business Correspondent

Generic engineering photo
A shortage of qualified youngsters is a concern for the engineering industry

Fast cars, sleek jets and the latest mobile phone might get teenagers excited, but few school leavers want to work in the factories that actually make them, say industry experts.

James Dyson, the engineering entrepreneur, warned that Britain faces an engineering skills crisis.

Engineering firms in the west have told the BBC that they are struggling to recruit school leavers because of an outdated image of manufacturing among teachers.

Chris Tattersall, managing director of Somerset based Relyon beds, said: "We had a school trip round our factory recently. At the end the teacher turned to her students and warned them: 'If you don't study hard, this is the sort of place you'll end up'. That is the problem manufacturing faces."

Relyon beds said they own state-of-the-art machinery including a 500,000 system that makes thousands of coiled springs a day.

Technology which includes computer-guided lasers has reduced the time to make a bed from six weeks to nine days.

'New jobs'

Sarah Morris, of the CBI in the South West, said: "Over the next four years we'll be creating two million new jobs that need Science, Technology, Engineering or Maths."

She said members have been crying out for more school leavers with engineering qualifications.

"We're calling on the government to invest a modest 120m in specific careers advice, to show young people exactly how promising a career in engineering can be. If we don't do something, Britain will lose these jobs to foreign competitors."

The South West has hundreds of small engineering firms who make everything from fast cars like the Ariel Atom, carbon fibre for passenger jets, to specialist valves for oil pipelines.

'Qualified shortage'

Barry Warburton, Engineering Employers Federation spokesman, said a shortage of qualified youngsters is their number one concern.

"Schools are pushing everyone into higher education.

"That's fine - but we need technicians and engineers to work in these factories or nothing will get made."

Ali Morison joined Relyon Beds 25 years ago and said working in a factory was a natural thing for a 15-year-old to do. She worked her way up and now leads a team of 40, who sew and stitch bespoke mattresses.

"I've got a son of 12 myself now and he wouldn't dream of working in a bed factory.

"None of his friends would. They'd all probably go for IT, or media maybe."




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