With the automotive sector looking forward to continued investment in infrastructure and new products, the challenge will be to introduce long-term planning to provide a flexible engineering workforce. Based on over 25 years experience working in the sector, Robert Wigley, Director at Technical Network, considers the key areas that should inform skills acquisition and development strategy in the sector.
With JLR outlining plans to extend their Whitley Research & Development facilities, expanding office space and potentially, a new supplier park and car assembly factory in the West Midlands. The completed scheme could directly affect more than 4000 jobs, whilst the wider scheme could support over 7200 jobs.
All should be positive news for the economy and UK manufacturing? If only it were that simple. The issue of skills shortage is still a key factor in success, with a significant proportion of the workforce in the automotive supply chain approaching retirement age over the next 10 years.
Companies looking to meet the immediate need for experienced engineers have to be more creative to increase their chances of securing the talent they need. First and foremost, employers must protect the existing workforce, putting in place a retention and development plan to help retain staff in a highly competitive market. They should assess future skills requirements and develop a long-term strategy to harness the full potential of staff, equipping them for the challenges ahead. This may involve training, in which case, the use of interims is an effective way of delivering highly targeted programmes to upskill staff and enhance the leadership skills needed to capitalise on the business opportunities.
Company Directors and Human Resources should consider an audit of skills to provide a clear identification of gaps in expertise which are required to meet future opportunities. Flexibility has become a defining factor in meeting the challenge of the skills shortage in the UK.
At recent industry breakfast meetings we have attended, this was a key topic of concern and discussion from business leaders. In addition, it became apparent that the ability to offer a sensible work-life balance is increasingly becoming a differentiator when it comes to attracting the next generation of skilled workers, often referred to as ‘the millennials’.
As a specialist recruiter, we are ideally placed to advise our clients on how to identify and leverage transferable skills and why this makes strong commercial sense. Different industries experience peaks and troughs in staffing needs at differing times, particularly in manufacturing. Therefore, working with a recruitment partner can give automotive businesses real insight into the availability of candidates, transferability of skills and knowledge across the design, development, engineering and manufacturing businesses. Following recent redundancies in the construction vehicle sector, for instance, we have successfully placed these engineers into roles with clients in the aerospace, defence, infrastructure and rail sectors.
The rapid evolution in the automotive sector over the past 5 years is a tremendous opportunity to rethink recruitment and put in place measures that will make the industry increasingly attractive to a diverse range of talented and skilled engineers. Those employers that are prepared to think creatively about solving the challenges ahead will be on the fast track to success during one of the most exciting periods of investment that the sector has ever seen.