It’s time to bang the drum for metal bashers

The Sim programme is aimed at allowing students and teachers to realise the opportunities available in manufacturing

It was good to see the government expanding its See Inside Manufacturing (Sim) programme aimed at allowing school students and their teachers to realise the opportunities available in what has been disparagingly described as the “metal-bashing” sector.

The Sim programme, started two years ago, is being expanded from automotive, aerospace and food to a further seven industries including wind power, and oil. Led by trade bodies in each sector, the initiative this time round is also being expanded to focus on those under-represented in the sector including women, ethnic minorities and disabled young people.

“See Inside Manufacturing plays an important role in challenging outdated perceptions of manufacturing,” said the project’s sponsor, business secretary Vince Cable.

It comes in the nick of time with an astonishing resurgence in long-established companies such as Jaguar Land Rover plus success for newer ones such as consumer appliance provider Dyson.

The founder of the latter, Sir James Dyson, said on Wednesday he was hoping to recruiting 650 engineers this year but would hire 2,000 if he could get his hands on them.

Almost 90% of the places on post-graduate engineering courses in Britain are taken up by students from outside the European Union, meaning the cream of the crop are taking their knowledge back to China or elsewhere.

Engineering is not for everyone, clearly. To get on undergraduate courses at the University of Leeds or Manchester, never mind Cambridge or Imperial College, can involve mainly A grades in maths and physics. But while the likes of Siemens have helped develop opportunities at Lincoln University and introduced highly prized apprenticeship schemes in Britain, there is much more to be done by the wider sector to build paths to a career.

Ministers can play a bigger part too, by dropping their fetishising of the digital sector or only turning up for photo opportunities at glamour employers in aerospace or automotive. As Dyson has shown, hand dryers can be sexy (and lucrative) too. © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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