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.