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Business, enterprise and energy minister Matthew Hancock has said that to plug the engineering skills gap, there needs to be a focus on quality apprenticeships and more needs to be done to inform schoolchildren about different opportunities from primary school age.

Speaking at the Semta Skills Awards on Tuesday, Mr Hancock said that it was vital’ to inspire young people into STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) careers to make sure the UK has the skills it needs to thrive.

Hancock said: “We need to make sure that apprenticeships are more widely available in leading businesses, but we also need to make sure that they are attractive to young people. We need to break down the totally illogical gender divide in engineering. Because we cannot fix the skills shortage if we exclude almost half of our population.”

He continued: Industry is hungry for high level skills, especially in STEM subjects. We’ve put millions of extra capital investment into STEM teaching facilities and we are putting £185 million more into the teaching of these subjects. In the next parliament, we are committed to 3 million apprenticeships, but it is crucial that they are there in quality as well as quantity. The right skills policies are vitally important to inspire young people into careers that industry needs and that includes engineering