The UK's automotive industry is entering one of its most challenging periods as a result of the market unpredictability caused by Brexit.
But before we proclaim that years of success – during which there have been record sales in recent times – will be superseded by doom, we should acknowledge that this also presents talented individuals and quick-thinking organisations with a remarkable opportunity.
Britain is renowned all over the world for its talented automotive workforce, and no greater time is there for the very brightest to shine than now, when Britain needs its strongest to ensure the ride from here on is as smooth as possible.
Across the whole industry – in engineering, where the UK industry has long demanded far more employees than the country can supply, marketing, sales and much more – decision makers will have their work cut out to secure confidence in investors and customers. They'll also need to be as sharp as ever in order to ensure brands currently based here don't jump ship and head for the Continent – as several have already threatened to do.
Sadly, under-investment in apprenticeships and training, as well as a reputation tarnished by the collapse of the British car industry, hasn't helped things, and has left the industry short of the staff it needs to fight this battle.
It’s noteworthy that the engineering deficit isn’t helped by the fact that around a third of all graduates get sucked into the banking and financial services industry, attracted by the salaries and opportunities, and appealing to their employers with their methodical ways of working.
How can that change? No question, it’s a long job, but promotion of giant financial figures and technological gains is one, as is telling the story of what a rewarding career is available by stepping into the automotive world. Children need to know what’s available so they can aspire to (and study for) the opportunity.
Finally, if you’ll excuse the self-promotion, it’s worth highlighting the Autocar Courland Next Generation Award. It is set up specifically to address exactly this problem by promoting the best bright talents with ideas that excite the leading industry people who are the award's judges. Ideas have previously come from wannabe designers, engineers, marketing executives and more.
The award is backed by Jaguar Land Rover, McLaren Automotive, Nissan, Toyota, Honda and Horiba MIRA, all of whom offer work experience to the winner. To date, it has launched not just the winners but also many of the finalists into careers in the industry, with Audi, McLaren and Jaguar, among others.
This year we’re pleased to announce a new sponsor of the Next Generation Award, HORIBA MIRA Ltd.
HORIBA MIRA is a global provider of pioneering engineering, research and product development services to the automotive, defence, aerospace and rail sectors. Working in close collaboration with vehicle manufacturers and suppliers around the world, they provide comprehensive support ranging from individual product tests to turnkey engineering design, development and build programmes.
With over 70 years’ experience in developing some of the world’s most iconic vehicles, HORIBA MIRA’s 500 engineers utilise over £300m of test facilities and the latest simulation tools to make vehicles and journeys safer, cleaner, smarter and rewarding. With a suite of 38 major test facilities, 100km of specialised proving ground and a wealth of engineering experience, combined with our expanding international presence, means the organisation is confident of achieving it’s vision – to positively influence every journey in the world by 2025.
Progress towards achieving this vision has been significantly accelerated through the creation of MIRA Technology Park, Europe’s largest transport technology R&D cluster and home to over 30 companies including Aston Martin, Jaguar Land Rover, Honda, Toyota, Bentley and Bosch. By applying HORIBA MIRA advanced engineering, test and validation capabilities to customers’ challenging programmes, they are already shaping journeys of the future.
The addition of HORIBA MIRA to the sponsorship line-up brings new expertise to the programme and adds an even greater degree of diversity to the already rich work experience programme.
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Joshua de Wit, a student at the University of Sussex, has been named the winner of the prestigious Autocar-Courland Next Generation Award for 2016.
The second-year Mechanical Engineering student scooped the award thanks to his original idea focusing on stacked graphene batteries, a design with the objective of improving sustainability in Electric Vehicles.
Considered a platform for kick-starting careers in the automotive industry, the Autocar-Courland Next Generation Award is a sure way to get noticed across a variety of motoring industries, ranging from technology, design, engineering and PR.
Joshua’s design concept harnesses the conductivity, lightness and strength of graphene, enabling the total redesign of the typical EV battery. Joshua’s stacked graphene battery design would enable charging times at a fraction of the fastest-charging products on the market today, while the flexibility of the material means far less can be used for the optimal balance of cost, strength, weight, storage capacity and size.
The announcement of the 2016 winner was made at the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders’ (SMMT) annual dinner on Tuesday night (29 November). Joshua will now embark on a six-month work experience tour of award sponsors Honda, Jaguar Land Rover, McLaren Automotive, Nissan, Peugeot and Toyota.
Joshua, 21, from Oxfordshire, said: “It is a privilege to be presented with the Autocar-Courland Next Generation Award. From the outset, this has been a challenging but rewarding experience and the mentoring programme has really helped me to develop my idea and push myself further.
“I’m now excited at the prospect of working with some of the world’s most renowned vehicle manufacturers, experience which I’ve no doubt will stand me in excellent stead for carving out a career after university.”
In a closely fought competition, the other two finalists also impressed the judges with unique and innovative entries. Joel Hayes, of Northumbria University, presented an autonomous vehicle promotion campaign called ‘Be Driven’, while Manuel Agustin Yepez Corsetti, from the University of Glasgow, created a concept that harvests waste energy with thermoelectric materials.
Martin Bohling, global managing partner at Courland Automotive, commented: “It is truly a delight and honour to be involved in this award and to have the opportunity to meet such capable, passionate and extraordinary young talent. We will indeed be fortunate to have any one of the finalists pursue a career in the automotive industry.”
Autocar editor-in-chief Steve Cropley, added: “This award continues to go from strength to strength in its quest to identify, nurture and inspire the talent of the future for the automotive industry. It has been extremely difficult this year to narrow our entries down to just a handful, a testament to how talented and impressive the entries were this year.
“I would like to personally congratulate not only the winner, Joshua, but also the finalists who came extremely close. The ideas and concepts they all produced were some of the finest the award has seen and it was difficult to choose a clear winner. If this award is anything to go by, the future is certainly bright for the automotive industry.”
Applications for the 2017 Autocar-Courland Next Generation Award will open early next year.