The creation of more than 1,100 new jobs at the Jaguar plant in Castle Bromwich is set to put the factory on a par with the bustling JLR factories at Solihull and Halewood.
The jobs announcement came after Jaguar workers backed a crucial blueprint in favour of new workplace efficiencies, including some compulsory Saturday working.
Roger Maddison, national officer for Unite said the news represented a major turnaround for the Jaguar plant, which just two years ago was “looking over the abyss”.
“It means that we are going to get this plant in the same shape as Solihull and Halewood – they are bursting at the seams and this plant has been struggling,” said Mr Maddison, who also said it represented good news for local jobseekers.
“We have got massive youth unemployment here around Castle Bromwich and this will give young people the chance to have well-paid manufacturing jobs they are going to be able to enjoy for the next 30 or 40 years.”
Applauding the groundbreaking deal with the workforce which paved the way for the announcement, Mr Maddison said the union was partly to blame for not explaining it to workers before an initial vote that had been rejected.
“The first time workers turned it down we have to take part of the blame as we didn’t explain it properly,” he added.
“We were able to go back to the workers to explain what the whole thing meant. and once we were able to do that and answer their concerns the workforce were ready to play their part in securing their own future and that of the plant.
“Two years ago this plant was staring into the abyss. The other plants were making products that were selling and this plant wasn’t.
“With the investment that has gone into new cars that are coming out in the next year or two the plant will hopefully be in there with Solihull and Halewood busting at the seams.”
Des Thurlby, HR director at JLR echoed Mr Maddison’s sentiments following the deal with workers and said: “Basically people don’t like change – they need to be convinced.
“We listened, made some changes and spoke to every single employee in small groups. In the best traditions of Jaguar we all came together and said this is the right thing for the business – not just for present employees but future employees too.”
The recruitment drive is part of an ambitious product offensive at JLR after the company pledged to produce 40 new models over the next five years.
A host of new Jaguars are set to be built in Birmingham, the first being Jaguar XF Sportbrake, which goes into production later this year.
Other models set to be produced at Castle Bromwich are the revised 2013 model year XF and XJ ranges featuring new engines and transmissions, as well as the new F-Type sports car.
Mr Thurlby added: “It has been a magnificent turnaround at JLR from the difficult days of a few years ago when our employees had to make lots of sacrifices and we had to do lots of difficult things we did not like to survive the recession but hanging in there has paid off.
“These are jobs for local people and their sons and daughters and it gives everybody a real lift.”
Mr Thurlby said he expected the recruitment campaign that has been launched would elicit a good response, particularly as Jaguar “pays well” and offers “great benefits” and said he believed the local area possessed enough people with the relevant skills.
“We are not seeing any evidence of a skills shortage except in a few very high-end engineering areas,” he said. “We are also taking on a record number of apprentices, 170 in total who will to go on to complete an intermediate apprenticeship NVQ level 2 and a lot will want to go on further.
“We have got an ambitions plan for 40 new products in the next five years across JLR. We have added 1,000 new jobs in Halewood, 1,000 in Solihull and 1,000 in Castle Bromwich.”
Mr Thurlby said the firm would also be recruiting engineers and manufacturing professionals.
Ralf Speth, Jaguar Land Rover CEO, highlighted the firm’s “ambitious product programme” involving research and development, new models and new drivetrains.
He said: “Over the course of the last two years we have hired 8,000 new employees. It is widespread, from assembly line workers to managers and engineers. We have a very strong product portfolio and high demand for our product all around the world, exporting more than 80 per cent.
“It is huge commitment to the UK and to the Midlands. At the end of the day business is people and with our very highly skilled workforce we can make a difference with our premium cars
“We are looking for a broad band of workers, assembly line workers but also engineers and managers to work on the projects and deliver the cars.”
JLR added that the launch of the new models would also support thousands of jobs in the UK supply chain.
Jaguar has seen its sales soar to more than 29,000 vehicles in the first six months of 2012, a 19 per cent increase compared to the same period in 2011.
Business leaders in the Midlands also welcomed the jobs announcement.
Louise Bennett, chief executive of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “The automotive industry is currently one of the UK’s key growth areas and Jaguar Land Rover’s announcement highlights the strength of this sector in our region.”
Martyn Mangan, investment manager at Business Birmingham, said: “Jaguar Land Rover’s investment into Castle Bromwich will create a huge number of new jobs for the region at a time when broader economic growth projections remain weak. This demonstrates confidence that the region can support large-scale expansions, particularly in the manufacturing sector where we have an established and growing supply chain.”