John Rishton of Rolls-Royce said that engineers are the real “heroes” of the UK economy and are needed if the country is to return to its former health.
Criticising the Government’s approach to rebalancing the economy, Rishton said that it had to do more to make vocational skills more attractive and even glamorous to young people.
He said: “For some reason apprentices have a bad image, when our people [at the Rolls-Royce factory] in Derby are fantastic. We make heroes, positively and negatively, of investment bankers. We raise their profile, make films about them.”
He pointed out the difference between attitudes towards engineers in the UK and a country like China: “When we talk about engineers here we think they’re people who repair the car. In China, engineers are seen as really important, and are respected. We need to change people’s mindset.”
Riding on the back of a buoyant civil aerospace sector, Rolls-Royce is enjoying huge profits. Rishton’s comments came as the company’s annual profits rose by 21%, topping £1bn for the first time in the company’s history. Rolls-Royce has taken on 500 engineers in the UK in the past year.
Of Rolls-Royce’s £16bn order book, approximately £11bn is for aircraft engines. Roughly half of these are being made for new aircraft, while the rest are destined for airlines replacing older engines with newer, more efficient ones.