AFTER a year of planning and organisation, on Friday I had the pleasure of opening the Wiltshire Festival of Engineering 2017 proudly supported by The James Dyson Foundation. More than 3,000 children came to be inspired by the 37 businesses and organisations who exhibited, with the event proving to be even bigger and better than last year's fantastic festival.

Children who came believing that engineering was just about screwdrivers left knowing it can be about virtual reality headsets, special effects at concerts, armed forces survival kits or super powered hair-dryers, which were just a few of the many fantastic items on show.

I was delighted that the Schools Minister, Nick Gibb MP, was able to attend the event, to see first-hand what action we are taking here in Wiltshire to address the skills shortage in STEM subjects and to speak to businesses about their fantastic contribution to the event. I am pleased that he recognised the importance of events like this in introducing and encouraging young people into the profession.

It is vital that we show school children the options that they have when choosing the subjects they could study in school and one of these is engineering.

He also had the opportunity to speak to teachers and children about the event, what they were enjoying and most of all what was inspiring them and, who knows, we could see this Wiltshire concept rolled out to other areas of the country in the coming years.

There were so many highlights I took from the event but the one which really sticks in my mind was hearing Wiltshire Air Ambulance pilot Nicky Smith speak passionately about not letting people or stereotypes put you off following your passions and interests and that the only real barrier to a career in engineering is your own self-belief and ambition.

This speech for me summed up the reason for the festival, to challenge the preconceptions, which can so easily form in children's minds, which subconsciously move them away from considering engineering and sadly narrow their career options in the process, and instead open them up to the world of possibilities. In fact the festival supported Wiltshire Air Ambulance and I will be awarding a cheque soon.

I would like to thank every business and all of their staff who attended for putting together the amazing and interactive exhibits, every school who attended and all of the children who came along and made the event so memorable.

I would also like to thank the fantastic staff at Trowbridge Civic Centre who helped put together the event and allowed us to use their fantastic venue.

Finally, thanks should also go to The James Dyson Foundation who, for the second year running, were the headline sponsors and provided such vital support which made the event possible.

We will certainly be holding the event again next year so please watch this space for a date and I do hope to see you there.

If you would like to make an appointment to speak face-to-face with me then please contact me on or alternatively my office on 01249 704465.

I also have the next Mature Matters forum booked for this month in Bowerhill, so if you live in the area and would like to attend then please RSVP on the above number.