The UK has one of the most advanced and diverse automotive sectors in the world, home to well-known commercial vehicle brands, engineering excellence and a highly skilled and productive workforce.
In addition, the automotive industry as a whole has a clear plan to meet the UK’s net zero targets, having invested more than £11 billion in the transition since 2011, including hydrogen and electric bus, truck and van technology.
However, future growth will depend on attracting top talent to drive the transition to zero emission commercial vehicles.
To help with this challenge, The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) Charitable Trust Fund, in partnership with the City of London Livery Company, the Worshipful Company of Coachmakers and Coach Harness Makers, has published a new automotive Career Guide.
This provides information for school leavers, graduates and career changers on the huge range of new opportunities across the whole of the automotive sector.
Examples include the development, production and maintenance of technologies, including hydrogen trucks and electric buses, self-driving vehicles, zero emission components, advanced software solutions and technical roles in the £50 billion aftermarket sector.
The guide also offers advice on how to find the ideal job or apprenticeship, interview techniques and scholarship and bursary opportunities, for people from all backgrounds, experience, gender, ethnicity, qualification and ability.
Career paths including manufacturing, design, marketing, sales, engineering, communications, finance, legal, Human Resources, IT, Corporate Social Responsibility, public relations and product development are all covered in depth.
Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said: “Britain’s world leading automotive sector is delivering the vehicles of the future, today, and the skills and commitment of a new generation of diverse and talented workers will secure its success.
“There has never been a more exciting time to work in the industry, with some of Britain’s best paid, rewarding and long-lasting careers, and a breadth of opportunities at the vanguard of the Net Zero and AI revolution.
“SMMT’s new Career Guide offers a valuable resource, providing advice on how to join the sector in roles as diverse as design, data analytics, engineering and marketing, leading the charge towards a zero emission future.”
The latest member survey by the SMMT found that nearly half (49%) of UK automotive companies are concerned about skills shortages in key roles from research and design to engineering and manufacturing.
It also revealed that nearly eight in 10 (77%) companies have been struggling to recruit staff in engineering, design and research and development roles, while more than seven in 10 (73%) are experiencing recruitment challenges in operations and manufacturing roles.
In the UK, the automotive industry has a strong reputation for the provision of inspiring and rewarding careers, with salaries about 14% higher than the average, in every part of the country.
With the number of automotive apprenticeship starts growing by 67% last year – 16% above pandemic-levels – the industry has never been more open and accessible to career seekers, with roles ranging from electric vehicle design and fuel cell technology research to roles in the development and testing of self-driving vehicle technology, high-tech repair and maintenance.
The industry is not short of examples of individuals from diverse backgrounds who are developing rewarding careers.
Nathan Frost is a technician at Halfords Autocentres in Hampshire, currently taking part in the company’s T4 graduate scheme to upskill employees to work with electric vehicles.
His first block of training has included Electric Vehicle, Hybrid diagnosis and repair level four, which will help to maintain the growing number of EVs on UK roads.
He said: “I’ve learnt a lot from the course and took away so much knowledge about the world of electric and hybrid vehicles.
“I’m now in my seventeenth year with Halfords Autocentres and it is important to keep up to date with the quick pace that the motor trade is evolving. I am grateful to Halfords for letting me be a part of the T4 graduate scheme.”
Meanwhile, Rebecca Wood is a Chassis Design Engineer at Leyland Trucks, a role which includes the development of design solutions for the manufacturer’s HGVs, including DAF LF electric vehicles.
Rebecca joined Leyland Trucks as a fabrication apprentice in 2016, having recently left school.
She completed her fabrication qualification in August 2020 before moving into the company’s design department in January 2021.
Since then, Rebecca has been promoted to chassis design engineer and is currently undertaking a master’s degree in engineering management.
She also won the Made in the North West Apprentice of the Year 2021, a “trailblazer”, being recognised for her ability to inspire other females to enter the sector.
Rebecca said: “The industry landscape is changing and there are more and more women in roles that were traditionally male, so believe in yourself and be proud – celebrate every single achievement.
“It is an honour to be involved in the electric vehicle project here at Leyland Trucks and contribute to the reduction of the UK’s carbon footprint.”
Rebecca said that as soon as she stepped foot inside Leyland Trucks HQ, she knew she wanted to work at the plant.
She also highlighted the support she has received since she joined the firm from senior colleagues, including Stuart Derbyshire, prototype manager, as well as the late Syd Zinga.
“From day one, I’ve received incredible support from people who’ve been as passionate about my progression as I am, who’ve instilled confidence in me and who have worked hard to bring out my full potential”, she added.
“Even though I’m no longer an apprentice, I’m still inundated with opportunities to develop my skills and grow as a person and professional.
“My focus now is on ensuring other young women like me are offered the opportunity I was to pursue such an exciting career path.”
The growth in zero emission and self-driving vehicles is creating even more opportunities beyond the roles traditionally associated with the sector.
With about 14,000 new roles either delivered or being created by UK investment in zero emission vehicle and battery production since 2011, the automotive industry will continue to require talented, creative employees to join its ranks.
To download the guide, click here.