Chief Exec’s report Q2 2024

Read the full Q2 2024 Quarterly Review

3 minute read


As we approach the middle of the year, and hopefully something resembling a summer, our survey results paint a fairly sunny picture of overall increased orders, output and optimism. Improvements in wholesale energy prices alongside a general slowing of wider measures of inflation, are an important part of this welcome weather, with room for further improvement still very much hoped for.

No look forward could ignore the recent announcement of a general election for the UK, and an interesting consideration for any potential policy change that could assist our ambition for Scottish, and UK, industry. I say interesting, but perhaps I should add the honesty that when the election was announced my overarching emotion was one of relief that the campaign is to be limited to a mercifully short six weeks. Forty two days of ‘oh yes you did.., oh no we didn’t” will be quite enough for me, and I suspect many of you too.

Three guesses for our pick of what policy topics are most riveting might not be the hardest of quiz questions, and so no prizes that our eyes were drawn to the banner headline earlier this week from the incumbent UK government that they would swap “rip-off degrees” for 100,000 additional apprenticeships per year by the end of the next parliament. We would say – and the UK government said this clearly too – that there is of course a vital place for university qualifications across all subjects, clearly for engineering in the form of undergraduate and especially graduate apprentice degrees.

Whilst the language might be headline-grabbing, and perhaps a little insensitive to those who have or are working hard to get a degree, we have alignment on the underlying concern that with limited funds to spend on skills, getting the balance right is critical.

Skills is of course devolved, so any changes coming from these statements will not apply here, but it’s good to see the value of apprenticeships front and centre in the debate for the next UK Government, and anything that raises that conversation – and message of the value of work-based learning – is music to our ears.

Whilst it’s critically important for England given the steep fall in apprentice starts since the introduction of the apprenticeship levy, it’s no less important here given that new apprentices are now in a situation where demand outstrips supply of funded places. Our aerospace cluster in Ayrshire particularly is an example where the contracted places do not meet the anticipated requirements of aerospace and other engineering in the region. Ayrshire College are working hard to find solutions to meet demand, but this is clearly an example where a rebalancing of available budget from spend on skills without clear economic value, into those which do, would make great sense.

On a similar theme, it’s been disappointingly quiet on the opportunity to review the apprenticeship levy, and any changes there that prompt a consideration that more than the frugal one third of the tax take that returns to Scotland is spent on actual apprenticeship funding would prompt a celebration in this organisation.

In five short weeks, we will know who will take the reins for UK Government, and more importantly, we’ll be able to start to measure their delivery on promises made. Meanwhile, as it always does, the engineering world will keep turning, and on the basis of this review, it looks like we will have a busy second half of 2024.


Paul Sheerin
Chief Executive
Scottish Engineering


Read the full Q2 2024 Quarterly Review