Sheffield MP brands £10m female engineering scheme unfit for purpose

Meg Munn
Meg Munn
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A Sheffield MP has hit out at the Government after it was revealed only £100,000 of a £10m fund to support women in engineering has been spent.

Of £10m set aside through a wider £30m initiative, only £104,000 has been spent and just three applications for support made. Businesses who wanted support had to find £40,000 in match funding.

Meg Munn, who represents Sheffield Heeley, said the Employer Ownership Fund is ‘not fit for purpose’.

She said: “These figures call into question how serious the Government really is about tackling our significant engineering skills shortage. It’s all well and good supposedly setting aside £30 million to help employers increase the supply of engineers, but the funding has to be accessible. This has simply not been the case with the Employer Ownership Fund.

“Only three applications were made to the ‘Developing Women Engineers’ stream. The Government claims to be serious about fully engaging employers to invest in the skills of women engineers, but an underspend of around £9.9 million pounds calls this commitment into question.”

The scheme was launched in June by Skills and Enterprise Minister Matthew Hancock.

He said at the time: “By supporting employers to develop the workforce of the future and bring more women into engineering, we’re empowering the industry to unlock its potential.”

A Department for Business, Innovation and Skills spokesman said: “Feedback from both successful and unsuccessful applicants has shown that the Employer Ownership Fund application process is not preventing companies from applying. The threshold for our latest round of funding has already been reduced from £40,000 to £10,000 to allow more smaller companies to apply.

“It is only right that there are checks in place to ensure that Government investment in the scheme results in the best possible impact with companies that will make good use of it.

“Funds for the scheme have not been underspent – payments are made in arrears after private investments are made, so payments will continue to be made in the coming months. Any uncommitted funding is put back into the programme to support new employer skills projects.”