The UK automotive industry is in rude health, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.
But before we break out the bunting, a note of caution. Such is the rate of growth that there is a serious skills shortage among manufacturers and suppliers, and it has the potential to cut off the success story in its prime.
In particular, the problem is focused on engineering, although there are shortages of talent pretty much across every aspect of the industry. Sadly, a generation of under-investment in apprenticeships and training, as well as a reputation tarnished by the collapse of the British car industry, has come home to roost.
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 such as those released today is one, as is telling the story of what a rewarding career is available 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 industry judges. It needn’t be engineering, either; ideas have previously come from wannabe designers, marketing executives and more.
The Award is backed by Honda, Jaguar Land Rover, McLaren, Peugeot, Skoda and Toyota, 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.
Of course, the Award can only play a small part in solving a larger problem. But if the industry is to continue thriving, we all need to recognise it and talk it up.