BUSINESS minister Dr Vince Cable has urged more women to go into engineering to help solve the UK's chronic skills shortage.
On a visit to GE Aviation in Bishop's Cleeve, Dr Cable said perceptions of manufacturing and engineering as male-dominated sectors had to change.
Dr Cable spent over an hour at GE Aviation, chatting with apprentices, graduates and other employees at the jet and turboprop engines systems manufacturer.
He was accompanied by Alan Jones, managing director of the GE Aviation site and Mark Elborne, president of GE UK and successfully "landed" an aircraft on a flight simulator, helped byapprentice Duncan MacKellar.
Dr Cable took special interest in GE Aviation's Girls Get Set (science, engineering and technology) which goes into schools to encourage young woman to consider careers in the industry.
He met Kimberley Kirkham, who founded the scheme, and Louise Davis, who leads the Girls Get Set team.
He said: "We have a chronic shortage of engineers in the country as a whole, at graduate, post graduate and craftsmen level.
"Women are a great source of potential which, as a country, we have not tapped before.
"It partly goes back to stereotypes. Girls doing dolls, boys doing cars, that level. Further up the schools system it is getting young women interested in doing maths, physics and engineering as a special subject.
"It is a hard slog because we are fighting against an old cultural tradition.
"We must change perceptions of this industry, which is why its important we work with others to tell the real story and inspire young people. GE Aviation does just that."
He said attitudes to apprenticeships were changing in a very positive way.
"We have had a massive increase in apprenticeships over the past two to three years.
"Young people see the attraction of it and employers see it as a very good brand they want to identify with.
"And although we have scarce resources in Government we are putting more resources behind apprenticeships because we think it is a very good model that works.
"GE Aviation reminds us why manufacturing remains one of our national success stories and lies at the heart of the Government's Industrial Strategy for making our economy stronger.
"The company is a key example of business investing in in the skills of its local workforce via its world class apprenticeship programme."
Alan Jones said: "Our facility has been very active in partnering with the Government on business growth initiatives and employee training efforts.
"Our graduate and apprenticeship programme has resulted in our business developing a stronger talent pool to fill our employment needs."