Strengthening skills is key to economic growth, says UK motor industry

08 March 2011 #SMMT News

The automotive industry is calling on government to implement policies that will boost skills in the industry and attract young people into careers in the automotive sector.  The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has set out its position on skills in a paper, published today, which outlines how government can work collaboratively with industry to maximise investment in skills and training, whilst raising awareness of the job opportunities available.

Titled, ‘Strengthening Skills for a Growing Economy’, the paper was discussed in Westminster today at a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Motor Group (APMG), of which SMMT is joint secretariat, to highlight the importance of developing skills within the motor industry as part of wider economic growth and rebalancing the economy.

“The motor industry heavily invests in its employees and looks to government to provide a skills policy which can support the future growth potential of the industry, build expertise and strengthen competitiveness,” said SMMT Chief Executive, Paul Everitt.  “Industry is specifically calling on government to outline how its 75,000 new apprenticeship places will be delivered, to support business investment in higher-level technical skills and vocational training, and to back initiatives that will attract young people into careers in manufacturing.”

SMMT’s paper calls for government to commit to long-term funding and support for apprenticeships, seeking clarification on how it will work with businesses to implement the 75,000 new apprenticeships, announced last year.

It sets out that government should support business investment in higher-level technical skills and vocational training, enabling the automotive workforce to compete on a level-footing internationally. Government should be looking at how these levels of skills can be encouraged to increase competitiveness and UK industrial capability. Government also needs to ensure the skills provision is aligned with industry’s future needs, including a focus on ultra-low carbon vehicle production and low carbon technologies. Funding, such as the Growth and Innovation Fund, needs to support the major up-skilling and re-skilling required for new technologies.

SMMT also seeks support initiatives which attract young people into careers in manufacturing. This will be key in helping change perceptions about jobs in the industry. The image of engineering and manufacturing needs to be improved and career expectations better communicated. This should be extended to improving the reputation of apprenticeships and vocational training, as well as the financial benefits of apprenticeships.

Claire Craig, Director of Skills at the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and Phil Millward, Human Resources Director of General Motors UK were speakers at the APMG meeting today.

Phil Millward said, “GM undertakes a number of activities itself to promote and support skills development in local schools and colleges. Government should commit to long term funding and incentives for apprenticeships as well as considering support for mature apprenticeships.”

The APMG was re-formed following the May 2010 General Election and is open to members from both Houses of Parliament. It provides a forum to discuss general motoring issues and those relating to the industries of automotive engineering and motorsport. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), the RAC Foundation and the Motorsport Industry Association are the joint-secretariat of the group.

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