It could take a year or more before the automotive industry jobs market picks up again, a recruitment specialist has warned.

Robert Wigley, a director of Wolverhampton-based consultancy Network Recruitment Partnership, said it would probably continue to be a struggle to place people in the interim.

His comments come as shutdowns, layoffs, working hour reductions and pay cuts have become widespread across the sector.

Hardly a major manufacturer has been spared with Jaguar Land Rover, Bentley, BMW, Honda and Toyota all paring back.

NRP supplies skilled engineers and other staff and is doing its best to cope with the fallout, but it has seen a significant rise in numbers on its books.

Mr Wigley said most were engineers – but included operations and supply chain experts.

Many were agency and contract workers who have in the main been the first to be released.

It is a huge contrast to a year ago.

“Indeed most of the original equipment manufacturers were the same – unable to get enough people,” said Mr Wigley.Now it was completely different with NRP working with people out of a job for some months, many of them highly skilled.

Mr Wigley said: “A lot of contract workers are affected which is a pity because many add value to a business.

“Some are still holding down positions but many have been let go.

“Indeed some companies have had blanket reductions where all contract workers have gone irrespective of their role.

“Most are trying to keep their directly employed people, conscious they will be needed when the industry eventually comes through these difficult times. But it is generally on much reduced hours and incomes, and the impact on the supply chain has been particularly harsh.

“The second tier operators, many of them SMEs, have seen much reduced order books. That has hit cashflow and in a worrying number of cases forced firms into administration.”

And he fears it is storing up trouble for the future. “How many suppliers are still going to be around come the upturn? Who is going to provide the tooling?”

Mr Wigley went on to say: “The car market remains extremely flat.

“There are very few opportunities and transferability of people into other areas, such as aerospace, is also getting difficult. I fear agencies like ourselves will struggle for a while to come to identify suitable opportunities. We might see the start of an upswing by the end of the year and slow growth in 2010.”

However, most of those looking for a job were prepared to be flexible.

“They are prepared to go anywhere in the world in order to bring money in,” said Mr Wigley.

“In some cases family issues, and problems with mortgages and selling homes in the current housing downturn, make that difficult.

“But at the least many are prepared to work away from home Monday to Friday if that is what they have to do.”