New Bentley project to create job opportunities
The brakes are off as the British car industry enjoys yet another boost through a new Bentley project. Volkswagen-owned Bentley Motors has announced it is to inject £800m into a project to build its first sport utility vehicle (SUV) in Crewe, Cheshire. The plant, which already employs 4,000 people, will generate a further 1,000 jobs – 400 in direct employment and 600 in the supply chain.
Underlining the German company’s faith in the UK car industry, Volkswagen Group Chairman Dr Martin Winterhorn said the company believes in the UK “as a competitive location for industrial production”.
Certainly, Britain is bucking the subdued car production trend seen across the rest of Europe. The UK currently makes 1.6 million vehicles each year, equating to a new vehicle rolling off the production line every 20 seconds. According to figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, Britain saw a 10.4% surge in production in June to 131,586 vehicles. And, while four out of five cars built in the UK are exported, there has been a 24.4% increase in output for the home market.
It’s all positive stuff, but how sustainable is the sector’s success – particularly as a fillip for employment?
Well, the signs are encouraging. Last month, the Government announced its automotive sector industrial strategy, Driving Success, which included an investment of £1b over the next 10 years in an Advanced Propulsion Centre to research and develop the technologies for future cars. This strategy also outlines plans to secure 30,000 more jobs in UK car manufacturing in coming decades. Furthermore, Automotive Council members are aiming to recruit some 7,600 apprentices and 1,700 graduates over the next five years.
“It’s fair to say that there is good news for the UK manufacturing industry, particularly in the automotive sector, with headlines at the moment attesting to positive growth and companies creating jobs and looking for talented graduates,” says Elliot Maule, education and communications manager at international automotive engineering body FISITA.
Employers’ needs are evolving, however. The automotive industry has a multidisciplinary approach to developing new technologies and is collaborative by nature, with long and complex value chains (money, personnel, original equipment managers or OEMs and supplier companies).
Maule points out that obviously today’s graduates and engineers working in automotive need a solid grasp of core engineering skills, “but that’s no longer enough to land the best jobs at the best companies – you need to be a hybrid engineer,” he says. “The automotive industry is cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary, the days of working in ‘silos’ have passed and companies now want to see more soft-skills, communication skills, wider engineering skills such as electrical and software engineering and the ability to work well in teams as well as working on initiative.”
The Government strategy sets out how the UK can secure the long-term future of the industry over the next 20-30 years, particularly by getting ahead in the R&D into low-carbon vehicles.
Without doubt, the hiring of skilled workers will be crucial in ensuring success.
“The UK automotive sector has been outperforming the rest of the UK economy, and in order to enable it to continue to thrive we need to secure the right skills,” says Philippa Oldham, head of transport and manufacturing at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.
“Currently, the UK automotive sector directly employs 129,000 people with employers recruiting at all levels from apprentices through to chartered engineers. The sector demands a variety of skills from those with operative skills through to those with expertise in low-carbon technologies. Government, industry and the education providers must work together to develop individuals who have the right skills for the job market.”
According to the SMMT’s Motor Industry Facts 2013, automotive manufacturing levels are set to grow to pre-recession levels by next year and there’s no reason to suppose it will stop there. The rise in demand for luxury cars is reflected by the job-creation not only at Bentley but announcements from Rolls Royce and Lotus within the past two months. The first half of 2013 saw UK car manufacturing grow by 1.1%, with four out of five cars being built in the UK being exported.
“This shows us that demand is increasing throughout the world with the UK being a global player,” says Oldham. The International Energy authority estimates that there will be 1.7 billion vehicles on the roads by 2035, which is an increase of approximately 800 million on the 2011 figure. So it is not expected that demand will decrease anytime in the near future.”