In this article: Customers are constantly demanding more from the industry, here’s how to get ahead of the curve with fresh talent

It’s no longer just about getting from A to B. Instead, vehicles are powerful digital devices, and consumers increasingly expect their highly personalised cars to suit their always-on lifestyles. Likewise, as manufacturers try to keep up with the latest environmental and technological developments, it’s critical that the industry attracts a new pool of talent to manage the inevitable servicing and repairs of these high-tech vehicles.

This need for fresh talent has never been greater. Reports suggest that the UK’s automotive aftermarket industry is now set to expand significantly. The digitalisation of the automotive industry could also add as much as £8.6 billion to the UK economy per year from now until 2035.

You’re going to want a piece of that. As such, we need to look at cultivating talent and building a pipeline to see us through the years ahead.

Start ’em young…

Companies need to engage with schools as early as possible to educate and inspire young people about the breadth of opportunities available. In particular, the next generation of vehicle technicians will need strong engineering and technological abilities to excel. It’s the school- or college-leaving generation – with its online culture and constantly evolving communication habits – that will play an integral role as vehicles go digital. What’s more, with autonomous vehicles expected to replace standard cars within the next decade, a very specific skill set will be required.

However, these and other similar skills will be in demand elsewhere too. The likes of gaming and computing hold a significant allure for young people and will increasingly compete against the motor industry to acquire talent. Demonstrating the current and future technical advancements of the latest vehicles will be critical when it comes to winning over the next generation.

At the forefront of this is the work that needs to be done to dispel the various misconceptions about what working within the automotive industry today is really like. Some still perceive it as an old-fashioned trade, but if the sector is to thrive, this view has to change.

…and train ’em up!

Education should also be at the heart of efforts to boost the number of vehicle technicians. While much is now being done to attract school-leavers into the industry through recognised qualifications and apprenticeship programmes, two decades of underinvestment in the development of skills, coupled with the severe narrowing of the curriculum offering, have led to a major skills shortage.

Unless action is taken now, and the automotive industry does what it can to showcase its evolution and highlight the career opportunities it can offer, we will be faced with a severe lack of new talent, which will act as a drag on future economic growth.

Of course, creating a pipeline of future talent is important, but we also need to be mindful of the current crop of talent within the industry. Creating provision for ongoing training will not only ensure that the present workforce remains proficient, but that existing staff members can mentor the newcomers and become ambassadors for the industry.

Ultimately, to succeed, we have to raise the profile of the career paths, apprenticeship programmes and ongoing training courses available. This starts with the educational facilities, ensuring they deliver the right information in the right way. Only then will we boost the number of people entering the industry.

Gavin White is Managing Director of Autotech Recruit

This is an edited extract from IMI’s MotorPro magazine, received free as part of IMI membership. Time to find out more about becoming a member of the most influential community in UK automotive…?

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