Autumn Budget 2017: an engineering perspective

Ahead of yesterday’s Budget, there was a lot of talk about what promises Philip Hammond would make in his statement. A large part of the last Budget, held in March, focused on “keeping Britain moving” with promises to improve local transport links and invest in battery technology for electric vehicles. 8 months on and the Autumn Budget was characterised by driverless cars and getting the housing market moving, alongside other commitments to making Britain “fit for the future”.

If you haven’t had time to listen to Philip Hammond’s hour long speech or browse through the 86 page red Budget book, read on for a summary of what the 2017 Autumn Budget means for the UK engineering industry and the people who work within it.

 

Gearing up for driverless cars & electric vehicles

In his speech, the Chancellor declared that “our future vehicles will be driverless, but they’ll be electric first.” And to spur on the transmission to zero emission vehicles, Philip Hammond confirmed that a new £400 million charging infrastructure fund would be established, along with a £100 million boost for a Plug-In Car Grant and £40 million for charging R&D.

Ahead of yesterday’s Budget, the Chancellor spoke about the Government’s support of driverless vehicle technology on Andrew Marr’s show, saying that the objective was to have fully driverless cars without a safety attendant on board in use by 2021. To enable this, the Government has said it will make world-leading changes to the regulatory framework to establish how these autonomous cars can be tested without a human safety operator.

On this, Tim Carling, Director of Engineering Technology at Matchtech said:

“If the Government wants the UK to be a world leader in autonomous vehicle technology, then its intention to make regulatory changes to the testing of driverless cars should certainly help us take a step closer to that ambition. Employers within the automotive sector have been increasingly seeking engineers with the skills to design, build and programme autonomous technology to work on the vehicles of the future and this trend is likely to continue following the bold backing from the Government.”

It is predicted that the UK driverless car industry will be worth £28 billion to the UK economy by 2035 and support 27,000 jobs.


Building more houses & developing construction skills

The Budget sets out the Government’s plans to spend at least £44 billion of capital funding, loans and guarantees to support the UK housing market. And the headline housing figure is the Government’s target to build 300,000 houses every year by the end of this Parliament. Government figures state that housing supply has already increased from 137,000 in 2010 to 217,000 in 2016-17 so the latest target demonstrates the ambition for this trajectory to continue.

Stuart Minchin, Director of Buildings at Matchtech, commented:

“This announcement is a positive result for employment opportunities at all levels within the housing sector. However it will present challenges for construction companies looking to hire in an already skills-short environment. Technical Managers and Technical Directors are already in high demand and salaries are reflecting this.”

“The construction industry needs to put an emphasis on developing the UK’s home-grown talent to ensure it can deliver on these proposed plans in a post-Brexit world by focusing on apprenticeships and bringing more young people into the construction sector.”

To ensure there is a workforce to build these homes, the Government will provide £34 million to scale up innovative training models across the country. A new National Retraining Scheme, brought together by the Government, the Confederation of Business Industry (CBI) and the Trades Union Congress (TUC), will focus on enhancing the country’s construction and digital skills, which are in seriously short supply.


Numeracy for the next generation

Recognising mathematical knowledge as a key skill in many high-tech jobs, the Government is providing £40 million to train maths teachers across the country and expanding the ‘Teaching for Mastery of Maths’ programme to a further 3,000 schools.

In a future-focused Budget delivered towards the end of a calendar year, it will be interesting to see this investment brought to life in 2018.

If you’re thinking about what next year holds in terms of your next assignment or your career as a whole, why not check out our jobs pages?

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