Britain is training the world's engineers and then kicking them out of the country to work for our competitors, said West inventor Sir James Dyson, as his plans for 3,000 new jobs in Wiltshire went on show.
The reaction from townsfolk was overwhelmingly positive on Monday afternoon and evening as residents saw for the first time a ten-year plan to expand Dyson's headquarters in Malmesbury.
The first phase, which could see work start later this year, will see room for 700 new engineers created next to the "ideas factory" on the edge of the town. Many residents expressed concern over traffic congestion – already a growing problem in the town – and parking, but most supported the expansion.
One of Dyson's closest neighbours, Sue Pratt, said she often was unable to even get her car out of the drive as the road is clogged with Dyson workers leaving at the end of the day.
"Dyson and its expansion is a good thing overall, but our biggest and only concern is the road system being able to cope with this," she said.
Sir James has a blueprint for a second expansion in a few years, which could see 3,000 people added to the present staff of around 1,800.
The inventor behind one of the West Country's biggest success stories said the cream of the world's engineering students were able to come to Britain to study in the world's best universities, but were then made to leave the country rather than stay and contribute to Britain's engineering and design industry.
"This year in the UK, 61,000 engineering vacancies will go unfilled," he said.
"Each of those missing engineers contributes to a project being delayed, or worse, cancelled.
"We want to add 3,000 bright engineers to our research and development centre in Wiltshire.
"But I have no idea where these engineers are going to come from. In the past three years we have tripled the number of engineers in our Wiltshire headquarters, but now we have hit a wall. Last year we had 120 engineering positions unfilled. It holds us back, and it holds exports back," he added.
"The solution lies at the roots: in education. We should not be afraid to offer financial incentives to encourage the brightest students towards areas of vital national interest.
"Foreign postgraduate students at our universities vastly outnumber their British colleagues. That might change if we paid postgraduate researchers properly for their vital work.
"Meanwhile we must keep hold of the foreign engineering students who study here.
"David Willetts, science and universities minister, is proud of the number of foreign students at Britain's universities.
"We take their money and we give them our knowledge.
"But then we kick them out, dispatching newly trained engineers to foreign shores. Our experts are training the competition," he said.
Sir James highlighted the fact that Britain has had to rely on French expertise and Chinese money to get a new nuclear power station at Hinkley in the pipeline, and said relaxing the rules on foreign students was a short-term answer.
"These are the world's most promising engineers. We ought to be encouraging them to stay, not waving them goodbye," he said.
But in the long term, creating more home-grown engineering talent was the answer, he added.
"We need our universities to produce more engineers as well as more research.
"If the Government doesn't engineer a solution to Britain's engineering shortage we and others will be forced to countries where there are engineers. Countries that value engineering," he said.