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Sir James Dyson: We lack skills to build Hinkley

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: October 23, 2013



Sir James Dyson

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Inventor Sir James Dyson has warned the West that the jobs boom from the new Hinkley Point might turn into a whimper, because Britain has a dearth of engineers able to build it.

And the answer is to open up our immigration system to "the brightest and the best", and allow top engineers from all over the world to come and study and then work in Britain, he said.

In a damning critique, Sir James said there was the "systemic" problem of a skills shortage in this country, and the Government "lacks ambition" because it is having to rely on French expertise and Chinese money to get the first nuclear power station built in a generation.

In the week his inventors let slip they are working on a new Dyson hairdryer, the man who came up with the ball barrow, bagless vacuum cleaner, bladeless fan and hand-drying tap, criticised the lack of investment in creating engineers and designers of the future, and said the Hinkley Point project showed Britain as a nation was heading for a "looming energy crisis".

"The talk of power blackouts makes it easy to forget that Britain was a pioneer of energy technology," said Sir James, in a piece written for American website the Huffington Post.

"Unfortunately we have consistently undervalued our engineers and scientists – now we are seeing the consequences.

"The Government this week signed an agreement which means our looming energy crisis will be solved by nuclear power stations built by the French and owned, in part, by the Chinese.

"This demonstrates the impact of Britain's skills shortage and our lack of ambition.

"To top it all, they have warned us that the dearth of hi-tech engineering skills in our economy may hold them back.

"The skills shortage is not a problem confined to the crucially important energy sector, it's systemic. We need more engineers and scientists," he said.

Sir James has long complained of the difficulties his firm has had recruiting hundreds of engineers and designers to work at his "ideas factory" in Malmesbury, Wiltshire.

After failing to hit a target of 750 new recruits a couple of years ago, the firm is looking for another 650, of which 250 will be based in Malmesbury.

Many of those already recruited to work in Wiltshire are from overseas, but the firm says both it and universities across the country struggle to get past immigration controls to get jobs once they have graduated.

"They should remove the immigration cap for the brightest and best, and make a special science and engineering visa," said Sir James. "The problem is that we are fast approaching a point where 80 per cent of postgraduate engineering positions at British universities are taken by students from outside the UK."

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