On Friday 10th April, six prospective parliamentary candidates from all major parties were quizzed by the South’s business leaders, entrepreneurs, engineers and scientists at the University of Southampton Science Park in an event co-hosted by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.
In a lively and interesting debate, the candidates – Conservative Caroline Nokes, Labour’s Rowenna Davis, Liberal Democrats Mike Thornton and Ben Nicholls, Green Party candidate Ian Callaghan and UKIP’s Sandra James – were asked what they will do to support the Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) economy here in the South if they should be elected in May. The event also gave the candidates the chance to pledge their support to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers Manifesto, which outlines the institution’s plans to encourage the growth of the engineering sector.
Geoff Baker, Vice President of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and founder of Entrepreneurial Engineers commented: “It’s well publicised that the UK is facing a major skills gap in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics; sectors that are of major importance to the UK economy and of significance here in the South. The engineering sector alone is worth over £800bn a year, generating 20% of the UK’s GDP.”
He continued: “The Institution of Mechanical Engineers is working hard to ensure that engineering is seen as an excellent career choice for graduates, however a step change is needed to attract young people into these sectors. Friday’s event gave us an interesting insight into how prospective MPs on a local level are looking to support these sectors, from primary school children to multi-national businesses.”
Peter Birkett, CEO of the University of Southampton Science Park added: “Friday’s event highlighted many of the important issues that science and technology companies face including skills shortages, access to funding, business accommodation and how to create sustainable development. It’s clear that a collaborative approach is needed to support our innovative businesses and help them achieve success on a global scale. That’s why we were delighted to host this MPs on STEM event which has brought together a wide range of people with a common goal: to help drive entrepreneurial spirit here in the South. We have an excellent intake of high achieving students from the University of Southampton, helping to fuel success for tenant businesses here at the Science Park and I know that this is something we can build on to support the region’s economy further.”
Questions came in from across the South, raising many key points including how to encourage more females into STEM subjects, as well as what effect leaving the EU would have on businesses with strong ties to Europe and how technology companies can work more effectively alongside the NHS.
Parliamentary candidate’s looking pledge their support for the Institution’s Manifesto can visit http://www.imeche.org/knowledge/policy/manifesto-2015.