Industry must work together and adopt a cohesive education strategy to secure and develop the skills needed to guarantee the future success of UK automotive. This was the key message delivered by a panel of senior industry representatives, chaired by Steve Cropley, Editor-in-Chief of Autocar, at today’s SMMT Summit.
Addressing a 250-strong audience and opening the session devoted to skills, Graham Hoare, Executive Director for Powertrain Engineering of Ford of Europe, applauded UK automotive and the work industry is doing to maintain and enhance the UK’s world-class workforce. But he emphasised that more should be done to address current and future skills gaps and that a cohesive education strategy is vital to cultivating keys skills that are needed across the automotive industry. During the next decade, 2.2 million engineering jobs will need to be filled in the UK and ensuring a joined-up approach across all the various training and education routes, including apprenticeships, will ensure that industry not only continues to attract the best talent but develops the right skills that will boost the UK’s global competitiveness.
Building on this, Leonie Williams, Head of Manufacturing and Labour Relations at Bentley Motors, highlighted some of the skills capabilities that UK automotive is keen to fill including: electronics and software development, concept design and noise and stress reductions. Emphasising the changing skillset required by manufacturers, she said, “Young engineers need to know about electronics and systems, rather than gearboxes and springs”. Williams also said that while offering a range of training paths is vital to attracting young people into the industry, the gap between these routes needs to be bridged and an integrated approach to training and qualifications is needed in order to maintain consistent knowledge and skills across the business.
Linda Jackson, Managing Director of Citroen, focused on the skills needed in automotive retail, stressing that industry must continue in its efforts to significantly change perceptions of the motor industry, particularly among women, in order to attract the UK’s brightest and best young people. Jackson spoke of the challenges in discovering workers with the right, quality skillset needed to meet overall company objectives, drawing attention to the changing face of vehicle retail and the emergence of technology. She also addressed the current state of automotive apprenticeships in the UK, emphasising that more needs to be done throughout the franchised dealer network to education staff about the value that can be gained from hiring an apprentice.
For further details about today’s event, including the full agenda, visit www.smmt.co.uk/summit. Updates on the day’s activities will be available on the SMMT website, and you can follow discussions online by following @SMMT and using the #SMMTsummit hashtag on Twitter.