James Dyson has lambasted Britain’s undervaluing of engineers and scientists, citing the UK's looming energy crisis as a “consequence” of a skills shortage and the country’s lack of ambition.
The inventor even suggests removing the immigration cap for “the brightest and best", while advising the government to "make a special science and engineering visa”.
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Blogging for the HuffPost UK, Dyson highlights last week’s agreement by the coalition to go ahead with French-built, Chinese-owned nuclear power stations to solve the UK’s energy problem as a symptom of the “dearth of hi-tech engineering skills in our economy”,
“The skills shortage is not a problem confined to the crucially important energy sector, it’s systemic,” Dyson writes. “We need more engineers and scientists. To compete internationally, companies, and more broadly economies, need to design, make, and sell things that people in other countries want.
“In other words, they need to export world-beating inventions, developing valuable intellectual property in the process. The Chancellor wants to increase exports to £1 trillion by 2020. But how, when we are importing expertise and it is predicted that we will have a deficit of 200,000 engineers by 2015?"
According to Dyson, his own company faces a “continual battle to find the brightest and best people“ to fill hundreds of engineering jobs, a situation which is restricting many of the UK’s research intensive companies.
Dyson applauds the plan of David Willetts, Minister of State for Universities and Science, who announced a £200m fund for science and engineering capital projects at universities, however warns that it is not enough.
“The government must encourage more people to study engineering at all levels, but crucially incentivise them – financially – at university level. They must support our future engineers with generous bursaries to study the subject and reduced fees.”
Dyson adds: “The problem, is that we are fast approaching a point where 80% of postgraduate engineering positions at British universities are taken by students from outside the UK. Our peculiar visa system means that these bright engineers and scientists, given a world-class education in our universities, can’t stay here when they finish their studies. We are training them up, only to send them packing – to compete with us. It’s madness.”
Read Dyson’s full blog post here.