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UK car manufacturing industry may face shortage of skilled workers

By raccars Published

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The car manufacturing industry in the UK may be heading for trouble if more skilled workers are not trained, according to a new report.

The Automotive Council study indicates that the UK’s car manufacturing industry is doing very well in terms of productivity, outpacing all other European countries in the value produced by each worker on an annual basis. However, it identifies a clear need for more investment in order to avert an emerging crisis. Specifically, the report points out that now enough money is being spent on research and development in the UK, nor on the training of engineers with the skills necessary to take the industry forward.

There are of course plenty of examples of recent initiatives which have seen money spent to improve the UK’s standing in this area, with the report citing investment from firms such as JLR, Nissan and VW which has made significant contributions to tackling the problems. But its authors argue that the Government should be committing more taxpayers' money to help put the UK ahead of other countries in terms of home-grown innovations and the training of skilled workers for the UK's car manufacturing industry.

R&D round-up

Globally speaking, the three countries with the greatest commitment to investment in automotive R&D and the training of engineering experts in the field are the US, Germany and South Korea, according to AutoExpress. Here up to one per cent of GDP may be allocated to the sector, whereas in Britain this level is closer to 0.5 per cent, highlighting the shortfall in spending that may be contributing to the skills crisis.

The report also points out that encouraging the Government to commit funds to this cause is certain to have economic benefits, since returns equate to six times the initial input based upon current figures. And the experts believe that if the UK wants to be competitive, these issues need to be addressed sooner rather than later.

Training for the future

There are some positive points to take away from the report, including the fact that the UK has a slightly better than average number of university students graduating in subjects across the spectrum of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). However, the authors also point out that when looking solely at engineering, things are rather less rosy and in fact the UK is only ranked 14th in the EU when it comes to training specialists in this field.

The good news is that the UK does a good job of ensuring that its engineering graduates maintain a strong bond with the institution at which they received their academic training. The longer term effect of this relationship is that when they move on to work in manufacturing, they bring this link with them to the potential benefit of future graduates from the institution in question.

Report spokesperson Tony Walker, who is also an executive at Toyota’s British manufacturing arm, said that the UK is home to one of the best car manufacturing workforces in the world, especially when focusing on productivity levels which are unbeaten on the continent. He also explained that while the report pointed to the potential for a skills shortage and the need for more investment in R&D activities, it also proposed clear steps that can be taken in order to avert the crisis and further strengthen the nation’s position in the international automotive sector.

The predicted skills shortfall may not be felt for some time, but since the impact of any changes made will be similarly slow to take effect it is essential that early action be taken.

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