Why Dyson is investing £31.5m into its groundbreaking Institute to create a future fit workforce

“My attitude has always been to take on high-potential young graduates, give them immediate responsibility, and mentor them through. Jo Johnson’s inspired legislation is enabling us to do something entirely new and very exciting. This is not an easy option for a student to choose, we are developing some truly exceptional engineers who will develop future Dyson technologies.” — Sir James Dyson
Sir James Dyson and Jo Johnson, Minister of State for Universities and Science cutting the turf at The Dyson Institute | Photography Martin Allen/Dyson

The Dyson Institute is literally groundbreaking.

During a turf-cutting ceremony at Dyson’s Malmesbury HQ, the technology company announced that it would be investing £31.5m over the next five years into its innovative, new establishment, The Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology’s (DIET).

Attending a turf cutting ceremony for DIET’s new campus, Jo Johnson MP, Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, said:

“The value of a skilled workforce to Britain’s future was spelt out in last week’s Budget, making clear that better training and skills are key to raising productivity and growth.
The Dyson Institute is a brilliant example of a new, innovative and high-quality provider that has taken advantage of the government’s reforms to offer something genuinely exciting.
It is giving students the opportunity to get hands-on experience at Dyson while studying for their degree, learning about everything from robotics to software to aerodynamics. It is playing an important role in educating the next generation of much needed engineers, giving young people the skills they need for the jobs of the future. It has been a pleasure to be here today and see the excellent work of the Institute in action.”
Sir James gave Jo Johnson MP a tour of Dyson’s Malmesbury campus | Photography Martin Allen/Dyson

The Dyson Institute is a creative solution to the UK’s engineering shortage, which actually originated from a chance conversation between Sir James Dyson and Jo Johnson MP in March 2016. The two met to discuss a national dearth of quality skilled workers that Dyson always looks to employ. Sir James explains that it ‘was Jo who had spotted that it is companies, not universities, that are investing the most in ideas and developing the technologies to create the future.’

‘The conversation culminated in a challenge from Jo,’ Sir James says. ‘He asked me to open a new kind of university on our Malmesbury campus, supported by the reforms to higher education that he planned to progress through parliament.’

He continues, ‘I honestly hadn’t considered that we could do this — but solving the problem ourselves seemed like a very good idea. As soon as he mentioned it, I knew it was exactly what we should do.’

Soon after Dyson announced that its Institute would be open its doors in September 2017, and work has now officially begun on creating a campus fit for the future’s workforce.

First day nerves: The 33 new students were personally welcomed by Sir James Dyson to The Dyson Institute | Photography Dyson

As well as receiving a bachelor of engineering degree (provided in partnership with Warwick University) the 33 undergraduates at the Institute are simultaneously Dyson employees who work as they learn. Perhaps most unusually the students pay no tuition fees and therefore leave their degree without any student debts, and nor is there a legal obligation for them to stay at Dyson once their studies are complete.

In the past five years the company has more than tripled its UK staff, and currently employs 3,600 people — half of whom are engineers and scientists. This figure is set to leap up again, with the company aiming to reach over 7,500 before 2020.

Higher education has, in recent years, appeared to be falling behind. The creation of new technologies like artificial intelligence, robotics, connected home products has left the tech industry desperately looking to fill a shortfall of engineering and science jobs.

This was recognised in the recent Budget, as the Government announced they would create an additional £2.3bn investment in R&D spending. By 2027 this will constitute 2.4 percent of GDP, with an ultimate goal of reaching 3 percent. This is seen as a vital step in Britain’s new Industrial Strategy and addressing the UK’s productivity crisis.

Sir James has been a vocal critic about the shortage of engineers in the UK. Citing the claim that by 2025 Britain will be 1.8m engineers short, and following the UK government’s creation of the Higher Education and Research Act, the Dyson Institute is attempting to provide an innovative approach to engineering education.

The students undergo one of the most rigorous educations available to undergraduates. The degree involves a 47-week teaching calendar, offering nearly four times the contact hours a normal student would expect. The aim is, reportedly, to focus on creating an educational environment which is capable of creating the very best engineers.

Over 850 students applied for 25 places in the first year of the degree. 27 percent of the current undergraduate engineers at Dyson are female, which compares favourably to the UK average of just 16 percent. Moreover, 40 percent of all Dyson’s global staff are female, a figure which Sir James Dyson has himself said is not yet enough.

In the next round of undergraduate applications, Dyson is hoping for a 50:50 male-female student split, a feat which they have already achieved in their Imperial College London Dyson School of Design Engineering.

Hiteshree “Tesh” Patel, is a software manager at Dyson. Speaking about Dyson’s approach to hiring with the future in mind, she said: ‘I joined Dyson three and half years ago and recognised that as a company, we recruit talent based on skills. Being an Indian from Zimbabwe, I’ve felt encouraged to challenge myself the same as my peers and was thrilled to be nominated and then honoured to win an award as one of the UK Top 50 Women in Engineering this year.’

She adds, ‘Dyson as a business is starting to recognise the importance of diversity we have some new internal groups led by employees; I am part of “SheWorks”, a group aimed at supporting women working at Dyson. There is a recognised imbalance of women in STEM careers and I’m keen to initiate a closer link with JDF to encourage children from a younger age into STEM subjects and inspire the next generation of engineers.’

A rendering showing the undergraduate accommodation “pods” | Photography Dyson

As well as investing in Dyson’s future people, the ceremony also marks the beginning of a building process which will make the company’s campus fit for a more technology focused future workforce, culminating in early 2018 with the installation of 78 modular student housing “pods”.

These student pods will be arranged in a semicircle around a two-story circular communal “Clubhouse” providing a students with a library, café, screening room.

Applications are currently open for entry in September 2018, and the next crop of undergraduates can already look forward to a campus which will match their groundbreaking education.

Visit our publication to explore the 78 modular student “pods” which will become the DIET student’s accommodation in 2018.

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