Who would have thought the announcement by Sir James Dyson of a planned £250million expansion of his company headquarters in Wiltshire would be met with a degree of consternation? After all, what could be better than the creation of 3,000 engineering jobs?
Unfortunately, according to recent statistics, finding 3,000 new engineers is far from the straightforward task many would believe it to be. Even in these troubled times when many professions can pick and choose from a vast array of candidates, there are serious concerns surrounding the lack of qualified engineers moving into the industry.
The company has been working on plans for the new site for the past two years and is close to securing planning permission. “If that goes ahead, we hope to build it by 2015,” said Sir James Dyson in a recent article published in the Telegraph.
“We would also like to be well on the way to our 3,000 engineer target by then. But we need help from the Government to make that happen. I’m begging the Government for more support – a grant to help students pay their fees would be an easy and obvious thing to do.
“I would also give proper salaries to people who stay on at university to do postgraduate research,” he continued. “They only get £7,000 to £10,000 a year. That’s a pittance if you’ve been an undergraduate for four years.”
A dearth of talent within the student engineering world has been an issue for some time. Now, the talent shortage in the UK has been exacerbated by a change in immigration law that prevents foreign postgraduate engineers from staying in the UK after completing their studies.
“We want to expand and produce new products,” added Sir James. “We’ve got to do it somewhere. We either do it here or in Malaysia and Singapore. It all depends on whether we can actually find all the engineers we need.”
“It will not be impossible to find an additional 3,000 if the Government makes engineering a more attractive career choice. We really need the government to take up the cudgels on this. As a country, we need an extra 87,000 engineers a year to meet demand.
“There’s no shortage of engineers in the Far East,” he added. “40pc of all graduates from Singapore University are engineers. Even the Philippines produces twice as many engineers as us. Either we expand here or we will be forced to do it in the Far East, which would be a real shame.”
Barry Brooks, President of the Institution of Engineering and Technology, recently said; “Engineering is fundamental to the UK’s economic progress, so it is critical that we ensure that there are enough skilled men and women to meet demand. There just aren’t enough people to fill the jobs.
“Our most recent survey of employers showed a desire to recruit new staff, but that they are struggling to find the right people with the right skills,” he says.
“With huge demand for skills, apprenticeships in particular provide a high quality route into the profession for future engineers and technicians, who will be vital in building a stronger economy for the benefit of society.”