The harsh reality of the Covid-19 pandemic and resulting global lockdowns, closed markets and shuttered plants, has hit the automotive sector particularly hard. Alongside this unexpected crisis, Brexit uncertainly also affected demand. In the second half of 2020 showrooms reopened and production lines restarted, but unsettled markets meant demand and social distancing continued to slow productivity. The ongoing semi-conductor shortage also started to cause disruption in the latter part of the year. Unsurprisingly, and like elsewhere in the economy, the sector has been forced to reduce head count, resulting in job losses, and reskill its workforce. The sector is now looking to the future to ensure its workforce has the right skill set to effectively fast track the electrification drive and meet its decarbonisation commitments, while supporting, and even growing, its UK industrial base.
Automotive is one of the UK’s major employers, with 156,400 workers directly employed in manufacturing roles in 2020 and a broader 797,300 workers employed in total across the wider sector (including retail and finance). The people involved in the sector and their respective skill sets are just as diverse as the products which the industry offers – whether producing a vehicle for mass market, a luxury sportscar, a highly customised specialist vehicle, a light or heavy commercial vehicle, or a bus and coach – the UK’s automotive workforce is amongst the highest skilled and most productive in the world.
In 2020, signatories reported cash donations to charities of more than £8.9 million and made other contributions worth almost £130,000 along with donations to foodbanks and items of clothing. Signatories also reported giving in excess of 83,000 hours of employees’ time to local causes. In addition, a number of companies have donated over 130,000 PPE items to NHS, care homes and local communities. For example, Bentley created a Covid-19 impact fund to support community projects, recognising that many people will have been affected by the pandemic. The fund awarded grants, ranging from £8,000 to £25,000, to 11 projects that tackle food poverty, mental health and wellbeing, debt relief and financial education. It is hoped that over 5,000 people will benefit from these projects.