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Ron Dennis CBE, Chairman and Chief Executive of the McLaren Group Speech to Welcome the Secretary of

Ron Dennis shares his views on skills and education

To coincide with McLaren’s Skills Week, Ron Dennis shares his thoughts on encouraging young people to fulfil their educational potential, and why a skilled workforce is essential for future growth.

This is an excerpt of a speech that was originally used during a senior level discussion of skills and education at the McLaren Technology Centre, attended by Michael Gove MP, the Secretary of State for Education.

McLaren is a technology company. We innovate to win grand prix races, we engineer and manufacture some of the world’s most advanced road cars and we apply ground breaking technology alongside our blue chip partners.  We’re growing, and I have an ambitious vision for the future.

But when I think about the future, and when I discuss growth, I am really talking about people. Without bright, motivated, ambitious, and educated young people, it will be impossible for McLaren, and companies like us, to sustain growth.  We need to identify and attract the next generation into our organisations.

My passion and interest in skills and education is about more than McLaren and our needs. I believe in the potential of science, engineering and technology to shape and change our country, which in turn will enable us to be more competitive in the world economy.

I am confident that by drawing upon the collective intelligence of scientists and engineers, we can address the global challenges that we face: challenges such as climate change; our aging populations, and limited natural resources.

However, I know, that to address those challenges, we need to encourage the brightest young people to pursue science and maths and help them to maximise their educational potential.

It is also vital that, as industry, we convince young people to pursue technical careers.  It’s Government’s role to prepare young people; to give them the tools they require to succeed, but it is industry’s responsibility to inspire them to come and work with us.

Engineering and technology is my passion, and making things is just so exciting. This is the message that we need to get across. I would like us to stimulate and attract more young people from the next generation to commit to a career which is both rewarding and can make a long-term difference to us all.

There is a prevalent misunderstanding that to be an engineer, goes hand in hand with being dull and obsessed with a chosen subject.

I couldn’t disagree more. Many of the products we rely on in our everyday lives, such as mobile phones, cars and TVs, are the products of engineering.

McLaren’s engineers are some of the most creative people I know. Of course, they possess the ability to master complex equations, but at the same time they are required to be creative and innovative.  If you lack imagination, you won’t be a good engineer.

It’s our responsibility to ensure that young people can see that there are wonderful, varied and creative opportunities in British industry.  There is an intense, international competition for talent. The brightest graduates have an opportunity to work in banking in Frankfurt, in the law in Hong Kong, or for Silicon Valley in California. They have options.

It’s imperative that companies like us inspire our young people to take on challenges here in the UK. 

At McLaren we are committed to play our part:

  • we have recruited 46 graduate trainees
  • we run a paid internship scheme for the brightest engineering students
  • we employ apprentices and trainees – many of whom go on to study degrees in engineering 
  • we offer hundreds of work experience places
  • we have a network of STEM ambassadors who go into schools to inspire the next generation
  • in fact all our graduate trainees are expected to act as STEM Ambassadors
  • we run the annual McLaren Manufacturing Challenge, through which school children have the opportunity to see what modern high technology industry is really like
  • we support the major Scientists in Sport programme with our partner GSK and the international Sci-Tech Challenge with our partner ExxonMobil.

More importantly, we’re determined to remain at the pinnacle of global technology and to undertake inspiring engineering projects that spark the imagination and raise expectations of what’s possible.

For example; it was not just a business decision to build the McLaren P1. There are less challenging ways to make a profit than to develop one of the world’s most complex and technologically advanced cars.

The P1 is a halo project which is designed to send a message.

A message about what McLaren is capable of.

A message about what UK industry can deliver.

And moreover, a message about what engineers can achieve when they are challenged to avoid compromise. 

But the P1 is just one example of the outstanding technology that we produce in this country. Collectively, we have the tools to inspire the next generation. So let us all spend less time talking about it; and just get on and do it.