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UK kicking out engineers to work for competitors says Dyson

Britain must stop kicking out the foreign-born engineers it trains and pay native students to study engineering, according to James Dyson.

Writing in The Financial Times, the prominent engineer and businessman said a lack of suitable engineers to apply for positions at his firm’s R&D centre in Wiltshire was holding back the company – and the country.

He said the solution to this ‘crisis in engineering’, which he claimed meant 61,000 engineering vacancies at British companies would go unfilled this year, was in offering financial incentives to encourage students into the sector and in making it easier for foreign students to stay rather than losing their talents after they graduate.

‘We take their money and we give them our knowledge,’ he wrote. ‘But then we kick them out, dispatching newly trained engineers to foreign shores. Our experts are training the competition.’

He claimed that government advisers estimate 20 per cent of all engineers in strategically important sectors were born abroad, but that employer fees, paperwork and visa restrictions meant that the world’s most promising engineers were not being given a chance to contribute to Britain after studying here.

In response, immigration minister Mark Harper said the four months foreign graduates had to secure a professional job before they had to leave the country was plenty of time for those with in-demand skills, and that employer sponsorship fees were competitive with other countries.

Dyson is planning to expand its Malmesbury research centre and recruit 3,000 new engineers. But the inventor said he had no idea where those engineers would come from and that 120 positions at the company went unfilled last year.

He said that the cost of paying engineering students’ tuition fees would quickly be recouped through greater tax revenue and provide the necessary skills to build Britain’s future power stations, high-speed railways and exportable technologies.

The UK should also increase payments to postgraduate students, he added. ‘Foreign postgraduate students at our universities vastly outnumber their British colleagues. That might change if we paid postgraduate researchers properly for their work.’

Dyson is currently advertising around 60 research and development roles, mostly with unspecified but ‘competitive’ salaries. One job as a thermodynamics research engineer comes with a salary of £28,000 - £38,996.

Readers' comments (36)

  • DYSON do not have the patience to train fresh graduates or unemployed engineers .he wanted ready made engineers fit for his specified jobs .There are lot of engineers available.Only thing they are rejecting all applications .we cant study engineering only for making vacuum cleaners .If we apply for a graduate engineering position there are minimum four round interviews .where as a fresh qualified nurse have only one interview with almost same salary .so please open your mind and look at the data,s of engineering graduates in uk or please change your HR Manager.4000 engineers for 30 posts for national grid,6000 engineers applied for 50 post for alstom ,etc

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  • I'm afraid that our company recruitment attitudes hark back to the same era as our rail infrastructure.

    It is no longer the case that you have one or two big companies in each town which can dominate the employment market. People can move around more easily, we're not locked-in to company pensions and we're generally better off.

    Besides, foreign-born engineers have no connection here so they are not likely to stay unless there are some compelling reasons - and there is only so far you can push your native engineers before they leave.

    Market conditions have changed and companies need to change with them.

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  • It's folk like Dyson and his ilk who are the real problem. If he upped the salary then he'd attract the people he needed and encourage more UK people to study engineering in the first place. Or he could set up a training department for graduates as used to be done by big engineering firms. Instead he bleats about the state of British engineering and ignores his own part in it.

    If you pay peanuts you get monkeys! We might not expect a beancounter boss to understand but Dyson should.

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  • After graduating with a PhD i applied for nearly 70 jobs all over the UK and received only 2 responses. Lack of engineers? More like useless HR departments...

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  • Plenty of statistical figures there from Mr Dyson but Vacuum Cleaner design is not as popular in the UK as Automotive Design and other Automotive Engineering disciplines so I think he needs to be thinking about being flexible in his employee expectations instead thinking he can get ready made Engineers off the shelf and thus be prepared to train Engineers the specific skills needed to work for his company. Anyhow, if Dyson manufacturing is not in the UK how is it fully contributing to the GDP of the UK only the wages for the R&D staff perhaps.

    I think he is being short sighted in thinking that foreign born students is the holy grail for his company, the more of this foreign student hiring goes on the less confident youngsters are at pursuing Engineering with the idea that they'll be contributing to their own country.

    What I can't understand in the Engineering employment market is why there is a lack of flexibility in employment where one could get experience as say a Development Engineer and is stuck with that experience in job hunting for the rest of his or her career when all the necessary job experience for other disciplines Manufacturing/Process/Production/Quality is taught on the 3 or 4 year Engineering Degree courses. There are now mutli-skilled maintenance technicians that have been de-rigueur for some years now that were originally two separate trade disciplines.

    Foreign students are only here to satisfy the Universities Capitalist needs and not necessarily to better the need of the UK is my view on this matter.

    There is probably no common sense answer to all of this and what I've said is total buncombe........anyway I think Mr D will work it all out.

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  • "which he claimed meant 61,000 engineering vacancies at British companies would go unfilled this year, "

    If this is anywhere near true, then why are UK engineer graduates only have an 80% employment rate?

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  • Perhaps because some of those vacancies will be for experienced engineers. Or because not all engineers can do all engineering jobs. Or because some people prefer to hold out for a few months for a job they really want to do than to take anything they see advertised.

  • I don't know why there is so much upset about the wages offered in the uk, i keep seeing comments about engineers paid £26 thousand! Well I can only assume people don't know how to look, because true engineers usually offered minimum £45k and contract engineers start at £350 a day for the easiest jobs and head way above £1000 a day for the bigger projects, so, I can only assume these moaners are looking at job adverts for expresso engineers, photocopier engineers and sky engineers!

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  • £26k is a typical graduate starting salary for many engineering disciplines. It also happens to be the median salary for all working people in the UK.

  • I second that. £26k is a starting salary. £45k is much later in the career if you are even able to get the chance to earn that. By this time many of your university chums who decided to apply their skills elsewhere will be earning far more. I think salaries for engineers are starting to move. I have noticed this in the last year or so. Some companies are starting to fight for people. I have seen a few engineers coming into interviews with several offers already and so they can pick what they want. Perhaps this doesn't represent every engineer but it is at least a positive step.

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  • You will find the salary of £45k but they usually want the design engnieer, the CAE engineer, the project manager etc etc for the that price and not an individual specialist.
    Take a look at the JLR careers page, they are offering £35 to £40K for an engineer, then offering around £50 for a manager and £70 for a chief engineer role.
    The reality is that their pay scales have shifted down. Internally an engineer would be on between £35 and £55k, a manager £50 to £80 and a chief engineer any thing from £75k plus.
    no wonder they are not getting many applicants. The best way to get a good permanent wage is to go in as a contractor and then go permanent at the top end the scale.
    If I worked at JLR as an engineer on around £50 to £55 but wanted a move elsewhere as an engineer I would most likely have to take a pay cut and that is not happening.

    I'd also like to know what engineer jobs "start at £350 a day for the easiest jobs and head way above £1000 a day for the bigger projects" And I dont mean project manager roles.

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  • Dyson is not an engineer, he's a good businessman and a stylist who produces overpriced tat (still abroad ?) why is he even mentioned in this magazine?

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  • Because he wants to recruit 3000 engineers. It says so in the article.

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