Funny, isn’t it, how society treats different professions? Estate agents? Boo. Bankers? Well, fat cat brokers get a double boo, but your high-street branch manager was - and, in some cases, still is - a pillar of the community. Journalists and politicians, meanwhile, have seen a spectacular fall from grace in recent years.
What about the car industry? First reactions are usually uncertain, thanks largely I think to its reputation of yesteryear in the UK, when workers were usually picketing, bloated car companies were profiteering and everyone knocked off for a half day on a Friday. Loveable rogue Arthur Daley and his sheepskin coat didn’t help, either, nor the variety of recent scandals that have tarred everyone with the same brush, regardless of the clear evidence of the industry’s record for innovation and progress.
Yet I can’t think of an industry I’d rather my kids went into; it’s exciting, it’s innovative, it’s complex and challenging, and the products at the end of it are both mechanical marvels and hugely emotive. Be it engineering, marketing, retail sales - the list goes on - the opportunities for a bright, varied career are enormous.
But, for all that, there is a skills shortfall across the board. Yes, there is a focus on engineering, where the gap is at its greatest. But the problems and opportunities stretch across the industry, as recent initiatives from Drive My Career and iwantobea show, with the former tackling opportunities in the retail sector and the latter highlighting apprenticeships available, on which we’ve written more here.
What Drive My Career does brilliantly is highlight the array of automotive retail jobs on offer, the kind of people who thrive in them and the opportunities for career progression beyond them. As well as listing the types of careers and open vacancies for those skillsets, Drive My Career is regularly updated with interviews from men and women who are in the industry and who can talk with authority about the opportunities. It’s inspiring stuff. Daley would feel like he’d landed on another planet if he saw it.
At Autocar, we’re passionate about these programmes because they highlight an industry we love. It’s why we also organise and run the Autocar Courland Next Generation Award and Great British Women initiative. But wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t have to? This is an industry that rewards the successful in terms of career opportunities and rewards, yet mainly legacy attitudes mean it has to fight to win over the top talent.