As car production continues to excel despite a dip in European demand, sector experts are warning that manufacturers must seek to strengthen their competitive edge by nurturing and developing talent.
With UK new car registrations in September up 8.2 per cent on the same month last year, things are looking up for the UK’s automotive sector. However, sales in France, Italy and Spain fell further in September and the outlook for the European market as a whole is uncertain.
Despite this, a recent report published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has forecast that UK-based car production will increase to 2.2 million vehicles by 2016 – the highest level since 1971. According to PwC, such growth will require an influx of talent.
Phil Harrold, partner at PwC in the Midlands and a member of the firm’s UK automotive group, said: “With such a rapid growth trajectory ahead, the industry urgently needs to attract engineering talent, if demand for skills is going to be met in the future.
“In the Midlands, the automotive sector is providing a platform that allows us to showcase our engineering talent to the world. Vehicles like Toyota’s Avensis, for example, are made exclusively in Burnaston, Derby, and sold right around the world. Similarly, Minis manufactured by BMW in Oxford are being shipped globally.
“In order to turn the region’s rich seam of engineering talent into a real competitive edge that will bring long-term economic benefits, it is vital that the industry continues to invest in talent recruitment and development.”
According to PwC, automotive OEMs in the region are already adept at nurturing their existing talent. Many have in-house universities to support employees in skills development and some have also managed to ring-fence pension schemes in a bid to retain talented workers.
“Such strategies are definitely working but more action is needed to attract talent at an earlier age. Apprenticeships and school initiatives, such as the one recently introduced by the CBI, which are intended to introduce more young people to engineering work and promote it as a rewarding career opportunity, are becoming vital,” said Mr Harrold.