A recent report published by the Automotive Council shows that up to 5,000 job vacancies in the UK automotive industry could be caused by a skills shortage that is set to affect the whole sector. During the downturn more than 100,000 people left the industry, either through retirement, voluntary severance or redundancy. While the economy is once again stable, comparatively few of these people have returned. By 2020 automotive companies may need as many as 50,000 more people than currently work in the industry.
Even though we now have the most productive automotive sector in Europe this skills shortage could seriously undermine the UK’s ongoing success. Last week’s National Apprenticeship Week provided us with a good opportunity to assess whether the industry is doing enough to attract young talent and the workforce that is desperately required.
For the sector to attract individuals with the necessary range of skills and disciplines we cannot simply rely on a young person’s passion for cars or vans to draw them in. The automotive sector is one of the fastest-evolving industries and, like the vehicles themselves, the roles and people required to drive it are more sophisticated than ever before. Therefore we must ensure we present an engaging and fulfilling career proposition that appeals to not just the mechanically minded, but also to a very tech-savvy generation of both men and women.
An apprenticeship can be a very effective way to do just that. It provides an attractive opportunity to gain hands-on experience, potentially working across a number of different roles and – if in a technical position – a modern range of vehicles, all while earning official qualifications. It offers a clear and compelling career path for ambitious school leavers assessing their options.
Earlier this year racing and TV personalityGuy Martin visited our Dagenham fleet and CV centre to meet some of our apprentices. During the Q&A session he championed apprenticeships and shared his view that it is the best route for anyone eager to make their mark on the industry.
While a comprehensive apprenticeship programme requires significant commitment from the business, the benefits run both ways. Investing in young people is a vital responsibility as the people we invest in today will be the individuals shaping the automotive industry tomorrow.
Sharon Ashcroft is HR director at TrustFord