HAYES IN THE HOUSE: By MP John Hayes
In the 19th Century, the Industrial Revolution saw Britain become the foremost industrial power, heralded as the “Workshop of the World”.
By the time of the Great Exhibition in 1851, we were producing more than half of all iron, coal and cotton. Many of the great building projects of the Victorian era – roads, railways, bridges and tunnels – are still with us, as fit for purpose as ever, with their aesthetics admired all the more.
Names like Brunel and Telford continue to inspire. Their legacy thrives in the engineering sector of the 21st Century. From microprocessors to aviation and spaceflight, British engineers and companies are at the forefront of technological development.
Last week, as the Minister guiding the Space Industry Bill through Parliament, I visited just such a business. Reaction Engines have devised a whole new means of jet propulsion, capable of driving high-speed aircraft and spacecraft.
We are justifiably proud of British innovation, but we must ensure that more young people – like the apprentices I met at Reaction Engines – are encouraged into engineering to help shape the future.
With this in mind, I was also proud last week to host a reception at the House of Commons to launch the “Year of Engineering”, which aims to galvanise industry and allow children greater scope to discover the opportunities available to them.
At the meeting, MPs, Peers, industry representatives and educators saw some of the work already taking place to fire the minds of budding engineers. Next year we will amplify those efforts, ensuring that companies, charities, schools, colleges and the Government work hand in hand.
Currently planned activities include an interactive programme – “Tomorrow’s Engineers Energy Quest”; the publication of new teaching materials; and behind-the-scenes tours of leading firms and laboratories.
The UK Space Agency will be supporting the campaign with a series of educational projects, including “Monitoring the Environment, Learning for Tomorrow” allowing students to analyse observational data relating to the North and South Pole.
Central to the aims of all this is our determination that students, their families and teachers get the chance, as career choices are made, to look more closely at the work which engineers do. Archimedes said: “Give me the place to stand, and I shall move the Earth.” I hope that 2018 – the Year of Engineering – can see our brightest and best do just that.