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UK Automotive Industry accelerates bringing greater engineering opportunities

13/09/17 Michael Diozzi Consultant, Contract & Interim

The automotive sector is hugely important to the UK economy. It is the UK’s largest manufacturing export sector and its supply chain is spread nationally, with a presence in every UK region.

Our automotive sector is also one of the most efficient in the world, bucking the national trend with the most productive workforce in Europe.

The industry’s focus on lean manufacturing and automation is one that could pay dividends for other manufacturing sectors too, as tackling Britain’s productivity gap is currently a top priority for government. The UK automotive industry is a shining example of a British success story.

We asked Redline’s Contract Recruitment Consultant Michael Diozzi about the future of jobs in the UK’s automotive industry and how it will be affected by its investment priorities. “The UK automotive industry is going from strength to strength, despite the potential issues and uncertainties presented by the global economy. According to the SMMT, in 2016, the automotive sector enjoyed a record year, building more than 1.7 million cars, around 1.3 million of which were exported. It directly employed 169,000 people in manufacturing, and is one of the most productive sectors in the UK,"says Michael.

Michael continues: “The automotive industry is currently experiencing one of the biggest periods of transition since the invention of the internal combustion engine, with technology firms like Google, Apple and Uber all looking to disrupt the market. It’s clear that the cars on our roads in a decade’s time will be significantly different from those that we are driving today. British manufacturers are displaying the kind of insight and innovation that will secure their place at the heart of the new global automotive industry. Automotive businesses are moving to create new growth opportunities, looking at increasing their investment in research and design, with a particular focus on low carbon and driverless vehicle technology.”

57% of UK car manufacturers have started work to develop driverless vehicle technology
64% plan to develop low carbon or electric vehicle technology
24% of turnover is the average planned investment in R&D

What are the biggest investment priorities for automotive businesses?

50% Automation 
45% Digital Technologies 
27% Data identification and analysis
26% Energy efficient systems 
23% Robotics

“The British automotive sector employs some 169,000 people directly in manufacturing, including some of the world’s most-skilled engineers, with more than 30 manufacturers building more than 70 different models. They are supported by more than 2,000 component providers, employing more than 814,000 people across the wider industry. A key focus for the industry has been to secure a pipeline of skilled engineers by providing apprenticeships and training.” says Michael.

Automotive Industry Statistics

78,480 young people began an engineering/manufacturing apprenticeship in 2015/16
41,000 people employed in the UK’s motorsport industry –25,000 of whom are engineers. 
2,500 Automotive Component providers in the UK
78,000 people are employed in the UK’s automotive supply chain industry

Michael continues: “We have already seen how manufacturers are making moves to invest in automation to maintain their high levels of productivity, but that does not appear to have had a huge impact on job creation as of yet. Automotive businesses’ job creation plans have fallen back only marginally, from an average of 33 to 31 jobs per business over the next two years. If their job creation plans come to fruition, the sector’s job forecast growth is stable, with 84,909 jobs set to be created across the automotive supply chain by 2019 – very similar to the 84,975 in 2015.” says Michael. “However, much depends on securing the conditions which maintain UK automotive competitiveness, to safeguard jobs in the future. Another factor supporting home-grown job creation is the ongoing reshoring of manufacturing to the UK, which has accelerated since last year, possibly due to firms bringing operations back from Europe. Last year 58 per cent of firms said they planned to bring some manufacturing back to the UK within two years, which has grown to 64 per cent in 2016. In the same period, the proportion of manufacturing operations that firms planned to re-shore also grew from 26 per cent to 31 per cent. Anecdotally, employers aren’t on-shoring purely to secure supply or quality, with many demonstrating a desire to support the economy in the UK and their local area too.”

What trends offer job opportunities in the automotive industry?

"It’s an exciting time for those working in the UK automotive industry. UK car manufacturing output in 2017 has been at its strongest for 17 years; during March this year, British car production rose by 7.3% - the highest number since March 2000 - thanks to demand and investment from overseas. Many companies have re-shored their engineering operations to the UK, increasing investment and production by the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), and as a result, there are increased opportunities for automotive engineers across the country," says Michael.

"Increasing consumer demand and changing technology is also putting tremendous strain on an industry which is already struggling to find the talent it needs. Jobs which will continue to be in demand for the next five years include Mechanical Jobs, Mechanical Design Engineer jobs, Software Jobs and Test Engineer Jobs."

Michael continues: "The rise of the electric vehicle over the next 10 years will create demand for different kinds of engineering skills compared to the traditional skills seen within the automotive sector, such as battery specialists and software engineer jobs and power electronics jobs. Engineers with Quality Engineering & Manufacturing, Calibration and Engine testing skills are highly sought after. In addition, with the advent of Electric Vehicles and requirements for lighter chassis to improve range and performance, we are already seeing demand increase for lightweight and composite specialists. This in turn creates further safety CAE engineering challenges and job opportunities as OEMs strive to make cars lighter whilst maintaining safety standards."

With rapid technological developments across the automotive industry and car manufacturing going from strength to strength, there are plenty of contract jobs in the automotive sector. So whether it’s a change in career you’re seeking , or a new challenge, please contact Michael Diozzi on 01582 878818 or email MDiozzi@RedlineGroup.com for our latest contract and interim jobs