Inventor Sir James Dyson has criticised the UK government for putting "web fads and video gaming" ahead of more "tangible technology" that Britain can export. In an interview with the Radio Times magazine, the creator of the bagless vacuum cleaner said ministers needed to address a serious lack of engineering graduates in the …
It proves that Dyson is a replicant...
We have a more fundamental problem to address
- getting the professional classes to breed more, and the professional benefit cheats to breed less.
Re: We have a more fundamental problem to address
Okay, eugenics aside:
Its the same issue- we no longer have the high quantity of agricultural or industrial jobs that traditionally employed the low-skilled. Some people will never be too bright- not their fault, doesn't make them bad people with no feelings- but the bell curve on this issue is something that no politician can point out ("Never call the electorate stupid!"). Instead, New Labour had this strange idea that everyone could be educated into intelligence (it doesn't work that way) and play a part in 'a knowledge economy'.
Rather than just addressing the incentive for the benefits system gives for having more children, we do need to look at why smart women have fewer children- or even leave it too late to have any. The French model is that women tend to have children in their early twenties before embarking on a career- in Britain, women try to reach some threshold level of career advancement before taking a break, and then struggle to get back into it. Economically, I can't work out why childcare is so expensive- surely four women can look after two children as well as one-on-one... I mean, everybody needs to take a toilet break from to time.
Ultimately, designing new vacuum cleaners (or cars, or microwave ovens) to sell to people who already have vacuum cleaners isn't sustainable either.
Bertrand Russell- "The case for a leisure society"
Re: We have a more fundamental problem to address
You've got some reliable documented numbers concerning the relative population of professional benefit cheats, have you?
I'm sure HMRC would be fascinated and grateful to receive them along with the research methodology you used to obtain them - pass them along and we'll all benefit.
Oh, what you mean is you're talking hand-wavey generalities and throwing some class-warfare-garbed eugenics-type rubbish in there for good measure?
That's a shame.
I think the man means to say that engineers create employment for the great unwashed masses.
This held true in the past : innovation reated by engineers and the people investing in their ideas led to the development of an industrial base that supplied jobs for the lower educated bulk of the population.
And this is exatly where a country's wealth originates : it's ability to supply a consistent income to the great majority of it's workforce.
Today, however, the cost of unskilled and lower skilled labor is considered to be too high and putting to heavy a burden on the profit margins. So this level of employment is outsourced.
This unfortunately leads to a general degradation of living standards : the local unskilled workforce does no longer have the disposable income to buy the products made in their country and is relegated to buying low cost imported goods, leading to more loss of employment in their own country, and the offshore workforce does not make enough money to buy the products they make, thus currency is extracted from the home country already under pressure, but not returned to said country by means of consumer purchases. Result : the economy fails.
So, I'm all for more engineers, more innovation and more highly skilled labour. But only if it results in a growth of living standards for everyone so people can actually spend money on it.
Not a sucker
Following two Dyson suckers that didn't work all that well, made a lot of noise, and then packed up, I bought a Miele vacuum cleaner. OK, so I have to buy bags occasionally, but at least I don't have to buy a new cleaner every couple of years. And his fan apparently whines a lot.
But he's totally right about the roundabout.
I work for a consulting engineering company and haven't had a pay rise in 3, or is it 4, years. Apparently our staff hourly charge out rates are lower than they were 10 years ago. There is no career progression, and I have become cynical. I have now resolved to study a course in insurance that I really should have done before now.
As a graduate mechanical engineer who worked in Germany in the past and had been in IT for most of my working life, it's fairly clear what the problem is. And it's not the web or video games (though silicon roundabout seems more about helping trendy posh kids than real companies).
The problem is banking. It creates zero wealth, it just moves it around, and yet the pay is absurd.
I read an article on the Beeb last night about Iceland's hard road to recovery from the financial meltdown. They let the banks go bust, but one result of this was that suddenly engineering and technology companies were the top destinations for numerate graduates.
Their economy will be far better for having creative intelligent people working designing and making things instead of conniving schemes to move money around in ever more imaginative and deceitful ways. Sadly Britain is just picking everyone's pocket to ensure the bankers can have their bonuses instead of letting the bankrupt banks go bust.
University could be worse
I admit it is totally different to when I was back in school, and it is a bit of a bugger that they have decided to shaft future generations, however, compared to the cost of the same course in an American college, I think it is quite a good deal, yes, you earn less than a store clerk after graduating, but then again, you have just graduated, your head is full of stuff that needs to be taught how to be applied practically, for most intents and purposes, although smart you are as practical as a tin of sardines at a bus stop. However after a short time on the job, it will all be worthwhile, and after about a decade, you should be earning more than the store clerk (who is not department head or maybe a manager (gawd bless em). They are at the peak of their career, and you still have a lot of potential.
Now the crux is that in the U.K. at least (and I will say many parts of the US) there is little enough respect for engineers, yes a few are highly paid, but, they can be seen as a loss leader, or necessary evil. (though moving to the US from the UK with a decent degree you stand to make a metric crap-ton more money than if you stayed there, which I guess is what Dyson is saying.
While I agree with the general idea of more people getting into engineering and driving forward innovation - etc - if he is so interested why doesn't he put his billions of pounds to good use, build an academy and fuel R&D start ups... I mean that's the whole point of capitalism.
I wonder how much Mr Dyson pays his engineers? Most engineering jobs in the UK pay a pittance, and the job has all the status of an oily rag found on the floor!
No wonder all the bright ones leave as soon as possible....! (Or else take up Law, accountancy, politics - you know, all those jobs that serve to prevent people doing anything useful.....!)
And there I was expecting something innovative like a proposal for a hybrid degree/apprenticeship program in which successful firms with tangible products lead the way into the rediscovery of hands-on learning at the direction of them wot can.
But all I got was the same ole rant, probably provoked by something to do with tax laws more than genuine despair at the educational system.
And for all that the innovative vacuum cleaner never looses suction, it don't clean all that well from my experience and those plassy bits break awfully easily. More R&D needed.
How much does Sir James pay HIS engineers?
I wonder how much Dysons engineers get paid? At most engineering companies the finance department are much better paid than the engineers. Perhaps Sir James should show us how fantastically well his engineers are paid - that would encourage students to take engineering seriously
Buying into Success is a Prime IP Hunt
Perhaps Mr Dyson would like to fund and take a run in a Silicon Roundabout start-up, to savour and better understand the attractions so freely available.
In the right start-up, on the correct project on a securely plotted course, will revelations be explosive.
Care to venture seven sevens as a gift starter for the capture of capital and transfer of all wealth to SMARTR Virtual Machine Control?
Go on, give me a hard time explaining to a bank manager why overnight there is credited a not inconsequential and even considerable sum of flash stash for spending as cash, to a formerly virtually empty account. :-)
You know we would enjoy its problems and inquiries.
Now that is the sort of thing the Silicon Roundabout is all about, is it not?
In America they have Silicon Valley, we have a Silicon Roundabout in London! Boy do we think big!
Re: Silicon Roundabout
We used to have a Silicon Glen in Scotland.
I think we still have a Silicon Fen in Cambridgeshire...
My 2p worth
When our lad was choosing his GCSEs in 2009, we had an open evening at school, where local Universities turned up to encourage pupils to think about choices that would lead to higher education.
One particularly odious character told us of a recent graduate who worked as a "political economist" for a US bank, earning over £40,000 a year (in the US) . He really didn't like me very much, when I put my hand up, and asked if he could give us an example of a graduate who (a) was helping the UK economy and (b) was doing something useful - like medicine, or engineering AND earning £40,000.
Follow the Money
The problem isn't limited to government.
As Josh Lerner wrote recently [see footnotes], more and more venture capital funding is being channeled into IT (social networks, etc) because they can get their capital back within 8-10 years. 4-5 years funding followed by another 4-5 years selling off the business.
Many other business areas [especially hard tech for export] don't all such precise and time limited investments. Venture capital funding for cleantech has bought no rewards (losses if anything). IT/Internet has been the consistent payer for them.
This government takes it's lead from business. It may not seem like it to you (working in IT) that there's a boom going on but, relatively speaking, there is. When it stops there will be little investment in the West in anything. I don't see it getting better.
Josh Lerner, The Narrowing Ambitions of Venture Capital, MIT Technology Review <http://www.technologyreview.com/news/429024/the-narrowing-ambitions-of-venture-capital/>
Josh Lerner, The Architecture of Innovation, Harvard Business Review Press
22K in the UK.. 37K in the US.. no decent curries tho..
"IT/Internet has been the consistent payer for [venture capitalists]"
You reckon they've not noticed the FaceBook IPO yet then?
British knowledge is simply taken abroad
As a chartered engineer who did R&D in the UK for a well known Japanese company for over 25 years, I know the point well. My experience is that we do R&D and creative engineering very well in the UK. What we do not do so well is passing that R&D to qualified production engineers who then turn R&D into great and reliable products. There are probably many exceptions, but the UK has lost the culture of developing people who have the skills to make advanced and reliable products that just work. It's this culture you find in the far East - methodical, thorough, detailed engineering that turns good engineering ideas into the reliable products that people want.
The longer term issue is that once the rot sets in, we start to lose the know-how and no-one wants to do engineering any more because it's seen as a dead-end. Gross oversimplification, but then I don't see many youngsters getting involved in engineering these days. Oh - and how many engineers are on the boards of UK companies? Thought so... mostly accountants and lawyers. We're all doomed :(
I understand his pain. I am in Swindon too :D
Absolutely spot on Sir James, but just a minute...
Dyson's comments are largely correct. There is no prospect that web anything will make a reasonable return based in Britain. Anything that is created here will be snapped up in its formative stages by a Facebook, Google or Microsoft making the creators a bit of cash but making no impact on GDP here in the UK.
Where are our Googles, Oracles, Microsofts, Facebooks? They don't exist. They don't exist because there's no investment from funding companies in the UK. There's no investment by funding companies because there's no intellectual property protection in the UK. Many, many commenters here will assert that IP protection for software is not justified and I respect that position. But as an investor I can assure you that without protection, there's no investment and, so, no meaningful revenue generated for UK plc. Instead the ideas which do emerge here are snapped up early by largely US interests where, if they flourish, they will contribute to the US economy.
But don't take my word for it, do the analysis yourself. Consider the few software companies that do exist such as Sage, Misys, etc. and then consider whether their products satisfy a peculiarity of the UK (accounting, law, government systems, etc) or are vendors of more general applications. Most that have anything to do with software are consultancies because selling time is more reliable.
It's not just the UK. This pattern is repeated across Europe for much the same reason. Sure there are vendors meeting local needs or national government favours but beyond SAP are there many independent software companies able to survive internationally?
It's ironic, then, that the home of the intellectual property free zone does not provide much by way of free software. Think of the big open source project (such as apache, linux, open office, android, xen, wikipedia) and consider who are fostering these important projects. Is it some philanthropy in Europe to show how an IP free zone can thrive? No. They are mentored in the US. Sure, Europeans (and people from every other continent) contribute but without the the ability to channel cash to these projects, very often cash from US investors in IP, these projects would fold.
So in Britain IT is almost exclusively 'data processing'. Data processing is important but is a commodity which has long since be shipped off-shore. Instead of generating cash for UK plc it sucks cash and knowledge out of the country. Even where there are IT successes such as ARM (this is a hardware business with does benefit from IP protection) the manufacturing and selling of product and revenue and jobs which accrue from those endeavours are sub-licensed to companies in other countries.
So Dyson is right. In the current framework the government should focus more on manufacturing. However, Sir James, for me your words would have more force if I knew for sure all your manufacturing (and jobs) is here not abroad as I believe at least some of is.