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UK automotive industry accelerates but what about the skills gap?
It’s an exciting time for those working in the UK automotive industry. UK car manufacturing output in 2017 has been at its strongest for 17 years; during March this year, British car production rose by 7.3% - the highest number since March 2000 - thanks to demand and investment from overseas. Many companies have re-shored their engineering operations to the UK, increasing investment and production by the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), and as a result, there are increased opportunities for automotive engineers across the country. However, increasing consumer demand and changing technology is also putting tremendous strain on an industry which is already struggling to find the talent it needs. Below we examine the reasons why there are so many engineering job opportunities in the automotive sector right now.
1. Foreign investment & increased consumer demand
Of the 170,691 cars which came off of UK production lines in March, over 130,000 were exported. According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), a total of 1.7 million cars were produced in 2016 and by 2020 it could surpass two million, increasing the need for skilled engineers to fulfil demand.
2. The rise of electric vehicles
Although it is still early days for electric vehicles (EV), the Government’s pledge to invest £35 million into the ultra-low emission vehicle sector ensures that sales of EVs continue to rise. In the last four years alone, new registrations for plug-in cars increased from 3,500 in 2013 to almost 100,000 by the end of April 2017 (nextgreencar.com) and these vehicles are set to become mainstream by 2020.
Les Hewlett, Director - Automotive, Matchtech, comments:
“The rise of the electric vehicle over the next 10 years will create demand for different kinds of engineering skill sets compared to the traditional skills seen within the automotive sector such as battery specialists and software and power electronics engineers. Jaguar Land Rover alone have confirmed to double production output and have expressed their desire to make the UK a global centre of excellence for better research and development, which has the potential to create 10,000 new jobs.”
3. Brexit is driving skills shortages & job opportunities
In their 2017 State of Engineering report, EngineeringUK reported a 20,000 annual shortfall of engineering graduates. This shortfall of home talent has led many UK companies to recruit engineering talent from overseas, but with the terms of Brexit yet to be confirmed, this ability to source talent from the rest of Europe may be hindered, leaving the UK engineering industry even more skills-short.
According to the Recruitment Employment Confederation (REC), EU migrants are increasingly reluctant to apply for jobs in the UK due to concerns over their future right to remain in the UK and the weaker pound against the euro value of their earnings. Whilst this does create difficulties for hiring employers in the automotive sector, it also means that there are plenty of opportunities for engineers in the UK to take their pick of the jobs.
It is clear that the UK automotive industry is booming so what opportunities are there for engineering professionals?
Job opportunities in the automotive industry
According to Recruitment International, in any given month this year 78,467 engineering roles are advertised online and fortunately for those working within this profession, salaries are also on the up. Recruitment International states that the average salary is £36,177, a rise of £960.00 this year and over 40% of the automotive engineers who participated in our Voice of the Workforce research said they are confident that they will receive a pay rise in the next 12 months. But what specific skills are automotive companies recruiting for?
Les describes the roles that are in demand:
“Engineers with Quality Engineering & Manufacturing, Calibration and Engine testing skills are highly sought after. In addition with the advent of EVs and requirement for lighter chassis to improve range and performance we are already seeing demand increase for lightweight and composite specialists. This in turn creates further safety CAE engineering challenges and job opportunities as OEMs strive to make cars lighter whilst maintaining safety standards.”
Due to the scarcity of certain engineering skills within the automotive sector, employers are looking to other sectors for people with relevant experience. Les explains:
“Automotive companies should look to take advantage of skills in other engineering sectors for example in aerospace or oil & gas where there are extremely talented engineers in less favourable market conditions.”
If you aren’t already working within automotive but are interested in opportunities within the sector, you are not alone. Matchtech’s recent Voice of the Workforce research highlighted that almost two thirds (65%) of engineers would consider transferring to a different sector.
With rapid technological developments across the industry and car manufacturing going from strength to strength, there are plenty of jobs in the automotive sector. So whether it’s a change in career you’re seeking or a new challenge in a new sector, there’s no better time to look for a job in automotive.
For more information on vacancies we have in the automotive sector please visit our jobs pages.