Inventor Sir James Dyson helps plug skills gap with launch of new university
Billionaire inventor Sir James Dyson is to put his money where his mouth is by helping to bridge Britain's chronic skills gap with the launch of a new university.
Sir James is ploughing £15 million over the next five years into the Dyson Institute of Technology as he looks to double his engineering workforce to 6,000 by 2020.
He told the Press Association that the private sector had a duty to help plug the engineering skills gap because the UK needed 10 times as many engineers as it did 10 years ago.
"We are competing globally with Korea, Japan, Taiwan and Singapore. It's all the major technology nations and we have got to be better than them," he said.
A dearth of skilled engineers is seen throughout developed economies, Sir James said, with Asian nations outstripping the west when it came to the number of new graduates in the field.
"(The shortage of engineers is) a problem in America and Europe and has started to become a problem in Japan.
"It seems that the fast growing economies or emerging nations really recognise the value of engineering, but when you reach security there is less interest in what makes you successful."
The Dyson Institute of Technology - which will be based at Dyson's campus in Wiltshire - will take its first 25 students in September next year.
As part of the course, students will not pay any fees, be handed a salary and work alongside Dyson engineers on up-coming products.
Sir James said the idea of launching the university came after he visited the Government to "moan about the lack of engineers". He was advised to take matters into his own hands.
The degrees will initially be awarded by Warwick University, with Dyson applying for powers from the Department of Education to create a full-fledged university.
But the Dyson Institute of Technology will only gain university status if proposals in a Government whitepaper - Success as a Knowledge Economy - make their way into law.
Speaking about the impact on the UK economy from the fallout of the EU referendum vote, Brexit-backing Sir James said the pound had been "talked down" and there was "no reason" for it to fall.
He said there were no plans to bring the firm's Malaysian manufacturing operation back to the UK following sterling's slump.
But he said he would consider setting up a British manufacturing operation in the future if it was "the right thing to do".
On automation, Sir James said people were wrong to be concerned about the impact on employment from the rise of sophisticated robots.
"A lot more of our production is fully automated, but people are needed for other things," he said.
"We don't need to worry about automation or robots at all. It increases the number of more interesting jobs for people."
Jo Johnson, universities minister, said: " The Dyson Institute of Technology will not only offer students the chance to study on cutting edge degree level programmes, it will also play a vital role in educating the next generation of much needed engineers.
"Our reforms in the Higher Education and Research Bill, currently making its way through Parliament, will ensure students can choose from a wider range of high-quality specialist institutions that can seek their own degree awarding powers and meet students' diverse needs; providing employers with the skilled graduates that will drive future productivity and the economic prosperity of our country."