How Wales is becoming a centre of engineering once again
Amidst increased economic pressure and unwavering uncertainty, Wales has quietly been leading an industrial revolution, pushing key technological advancements while cementing the infrastructures that will facilitate the lives of future generations. A peek into the accomplishments of the Welsh engineering sector reveals an industry that has gone from success to success; a jewel in the crown of the Welsh economy.
A growing demand
According to research from BESA Training, the building/engineering sector in Wales has seen significant growth in manpower demand over the last decade. While the rate of growth is expected to lose a little pace in the next few years, the demand for mechanical trades is predicted to rise by up to 11% between now and 2020 and, for electricians, by approximately 9%.
Now, a five-year project to encourage pupils in the south Wales valleys to study engineering is just one of the many incentives that have been launched to meet the growing need for skilled engineers. Championed by the Royal Academy of Engineers, the scheme intends to build on the region's "long history of engineering" and invest in the untapped potential within students from the area. Further to this, the Welsh Government announced earlier this year their target of creating 100,000 engineering apprenticeships by 2023.
A historic reputation
Wales’ historic reputation as an industrial powerhouse dates back to the mid 18th century when the country established itself as a world leader in coal, iron, steel and copper. Theirs is a story of firsts; it’s one that is characterised by back-breaking engineering feats - the mighty aqueducts, a mountaintop railway and a soaring zip-line are just a few examples of Wales’ impressive portfolio. Today, a new generation of engineers are spearheading technological evolution and transforming our lives for the better. Meanwhile, interest in these areas has made a marked comeback in popularity amongst ambitious students with big dreams.
A new era for Welsh engineering
In a bid to drive productivity and keep industry growth soaring, Welsh Government Finance Secretary Mark Drakeford has announced an extra £8m will be pumped into Welsh manufacturing businesses, to encourage them in developing cutting-edge products and services. Backed by £4m of EU funding, Swansea University’s ASTUTE 2020 scheme aims to drive more research collaborations between participating Welsh universities and companies to address manufacturing challenges and opportunities on the horizon. Reflecting on the project, Drakeford outlined the important role that investment plays in putting Wales firmly back on the map for innovation:
“Investing in our manufacturing sector to drive innovation and develop pioneering technologies and products will lead to increased competitiveness within the industry and new employment opportunities,” he said.
While additional funding will create new possibilities, the ASTUTE 2020 scheme has already proved valuable to key players in the Welsh engineering and manufacturing sectors. Port Talbot's Aluminium Lighting Company, for instance, is already reaping the benefits:
“The Astute 2020 programme means we can access specialist knowledge that we do not have,” says Craig Williams, the company’s managing director.
"Working with Swansea University we are looking to apply concepts of artificial intelligence, machine learning and neural networking in developing and refining our exciting new product and service."