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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)

  • They say that the higher you climb up the corporate ladder, the increased salary is justified by the increase in responsibility. And where do these salaries come from? The sale of products. And where do the products come from? The product Design Engineers. I can't think of a more 'responsible' role than that of the person who designs the products that bring in the revenue to pay the inflated salaries of all the overheads. Pay the Design Engineers a salary appropriate to their level of responsibility and maybe you won't struggle to fill the vacancies.

    My apologies. Can you sense my frustration?

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  • To the person with the PhD. It would be worthwhile considering Germany or Switzerland if you are looking for some good opportunities. £80-90k per year. A PhD or other doctorates help you a bit in the UK, they are a huge boost everywhere else.

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  • @ engineer. Thanks for the tip re: Germany and Switzerland. I have been thinking of going to Australia, but there is no OEM there. Perhaps I should try these two countries instead. I have over a decade of experience including project management, plus PhD, plus chartership. Surely this is worth more than £45k??

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  • That is a good amount of experience. Could take your CEng to the next level and get EurIng which is highly respected in Europe. You will easily get more than £45k. I'm in the same boat. Switzerland is high on my list and i'm going to look at Germany in more detail after discussions with friends out there.

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  • Dyson do probably need to pay more, as they certainly need better Engineers - preferably one that can design a vacuum cleaner that can be easily dismantled to allow complete cleaning, to remove the 'stink' that pet hair and dust leaves inside the cyclones.

    This seems to have been overlooked (I have 2 different models) in favour of fancy coloured plastic parts.
    The only cleaner on the market to solve the 'stink' issue was a polish designed Neptune that utilised a water chamber (puchased in 1999 and still perfect)
    Come on Mr.Dyson, design yours to be dismantled in a safe and sensible way at least !

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  • I worked for dyson in malmesbury,
    I have to admit its the worst company I have ever worked for. The pay is great but the conditions there and the attitude of the managers is awful.
    I'd rather be unemployed than work for them again

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