UK manufacturing is looking up, and two major brands in very different sectors are boosting their headcount, but where will the engineers come from?
The EEF may sound a little over-optimistic in referring to a bit of a renaissance in UK manufacturing during 2013. But the manufacturers’ body says it is seeing signs of a recovery, and the iconic Dyson brand appears to be offering solid grounds for hope by announcing strong financial results and unveiling plans to recruit an extra 650 engineers. Of course, Dyson is both a UK and overseas employer - one that attracted some criticism when, a decade ago, it decided to outsource manufacturing operations to Malaysia, resulting in job cuts in Britain. It now also has a plant in Singapore. But around 250 of this year’s new recruits are being employed at its UK headquarters in Malmesbury, Wiltshire. The 650 figure compares with a total intake of 220 engineers in 2012.
Of course, Dyson isn’t necessarily a barometer of the health of British manufacturing. But it is an example of how innovation in both engineering and marketing can help to bolster success. And the financials speak for themselves. The company has just announced a 19 per cent rise in profits to £345m. Revenue for the period was up 17 per cent to £1.2bn. The company now has near to 4,500 staff.
Dyson, founded 20 years ago, hit the milestone £1bn turnover mark in 2011. Its founder and inventor, Sir James Dyson, has consistently spoken up about the need for Britain to produce more engineers, for its own sake.
“We may no longer be the workshop of the world, but we do think, create and invent new technologies to export,” he wrote in a BBC Viewpoint last year, following the commemoration of Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s invention of the World Wide Web. “We must show young people that engineers are no longer clad in dirty overalls, but rather [are] highly skilled masters driving technology forward, exemplified by Sir Tim.”
After Sir James warned earlier this year of Britain facing a “deficit” of 60,000 engineering graduates in 2013, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) told the BBC: “We are working closely with industry and continue to look at various ways to support engineering at all levels ... [For example,] we have committed £3m to create up to 500 additional aeronautical engineers at masters level over the next three years, co-funded with industry.”
However, it seems that, if EEF’s hoped-for industrial mini-renaissance bears fruit, leaders of British manufacturing will be struggling with each other to find UK engineering recruits. BAE Systems and Jaguar Land Rover have been increasing their workforce, and Nissan in Sunderland has announced major expansion (see right). BIS will need to get a lot busier if it is to deliver those home-grown engineering graduates.