Tuesday 9 February 2016 3:57 am

Skills gap could put brakes on UK's car manufacturing boom - Automotive Council and SMMT

Chris Papadopoullos was City A.M.'s economics reporter until February 2016. He is an economist at OMFIF.

The UK's booming car industry, one of few bright patches in the country’s struggling manufacturing sector, is being threatened by a shortage of skills.

There are up to 5,000 current vacancies in the automotive industry, according to figures published today by the Automotive Council. Around 19 per cent of the unfilled vacancies were having a significant impact on business operations.

The majority of the skills shortages are in engineering – the top two in-demand roles are design and production engineers.

Last year the UK car industry produced 1.59m vehicles, its best year for a decade. It is in part thanks to greater productivity levels, which have risen 40 per cent since 2010.

“The struggle to fill vacancies is holding back growth and opportunities for business, and it is essential that both government and industry work together quickly to identify ways to plug this gap,” said Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society for Motor Manufacturers and Traders, which helped develop the report.

He said more support was needed to promote Stem (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects in schools.

The government is backing its apprenticeship policies to help solve the problem.

“Our automotive workforce is the most productive in Europe and this goes a long way to explaining why production hit record levels last year,” said skills minister Nick Boles.

“But this report shows we cannot be complacent. The sector needs to maintain its high productivity and international competitiveness and address the required demand of skilled workforce, engineers and designers.

“That’s why our apprenticeship reforms are putting employers in the driving seat, to deliver the high-tech, long-term skills our economy needs.”