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The one that got away

News that James Dyson is investing £100m on a new research facility which will employ hundreds of engineers is an excellent boost for the West of England, but hopefully without sounding too parochial, there is a tinge of sadness that it will be created in Bristol and not in Bath.

We can’t predict what products and new applications will be invented over the next ten years, but considering Dyson’s track record, there is a good chance they will be pretty amazing and it will draw attention to, and reflect well, on Bristol.

It could all have been very different if proposals for the Dyson Academy on the Lower Bristol Road had come to fruition. It’s hard to believe that it’s almost 20 years since the idea of a school of design was first suggested but for one reason or another it never quite got to the finish line and now it feels like the one that got away.

One of the drivers for creating the Academy was a perceived shortage of engineers, which Sir James, who had started his career in Bath at Rotork, believed would hamper economic development across the country. His fears in the early years of the century have proved all too accurate and our members are reporting difficulties in finding enough skilled people to fill all the roles they have available.

Our Universities and College are doing a great job and coming up with some creative collaborations to provide a new style of training, but some companies, such as Wessex Water are taking matters into their own hands by creating an in-house Academy so they can “grow their own”. That sort of innovative thinking may become more widespread as businesses find new ways of preparing young people for the jobs for which the right skills are in short supply.

So, we can expect a greater variety of ways in which training is provided and whilst we may not know precisely what the jobs of the future will look like, I am confident we have enough talented young people and companies with creative approaches to cope with whatever the coming years have in store.


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