North East motor industry launches project to tackle skills shortage

Matt Boyle, Sevcon chief executive (top right), Paul Butler, NEAA Chief Executive (top left) and apprentice technician Shaun Angus who is working on a Halt (Highly Accelerated Life Test) machine.
Matt Boyle, Sevcon chief executive (top right), Paul Butler, NEAA Chief Executive (top left) and apprentice technician Shaun Angus who is working on a Halt (Highly Accelerated Life Test) machine.
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The North East Automotive Alliance (NEAA) is launching a project to tackle the looming skills shortage in the region’s automotive supply chain, which is threatening long-term growth and job creation in the industry.

 The first tasks of the NEAA skills group will be to identify skills issues in both the current and future workforce and develop a greater engagement with the region’s schools.

One of our key aims is to spark and interest in engineering at primary school level, and we will be developing programmes and courses to engage with youngsters across all ages.

Matt Boyle

 A pilot survey will initially find out what skills shortages companies currently face, what problems they anticipate in the next three to five years, and what work is already being done to meet their needs through education, training and up-skilling.

 It will then be rolled out to all NEAA member companies.

 The NEAA skills group brings together representatives from Nissan, supply chain companies Sevcon, Elring Kilinger, R-TEK, Nifco, plus consultancy Drive2Business, Gateshead College and NEPIC.

 It is chaired by Matt Boyle, president and chief executive of fast-growing Gateshead-based Sevcon, which makes motor controllers for electric and hybrid vehicles, who said: “We are looking to attract 2,000 new people into the industry every year and it is therefore vital that we capture potential new recruits at a very young age.

 “One of our key aims is to spark and interest in engineering at primary school level, and we will be developing programmes and courses to engage with youngsters across all ages.”

 “We are living in a region with high youth unemployment levels but there are companies like mine crying out for a pipeline of skilled workers.

“At 10-years-old children are thinking about being footballers but we need to start them thinking about a career in engineering.” Ensuring the future workforce has the skills the industry requires is one of the NEAA skills group’s major priorities.

 NEAA chief executive, Paul Butler said: “Developing a skilled future workforce is crucial, but we’re also aiming to help companies to up-skill their current staff, to meet demands that suppliers are facing now.

 “Suppliers need to attract and retain the best talent and part of this will be improving morale through best practice and staff engagement. There are also gaps in basic skills and leadership skills, and companies are crying out for experienced tool makers, engineers and maintenance 
staff.

 “Plugging the skills gaps in the supply chain will be absolutely vital if the region’s automotive industry is to meet its potential and not lose business to other countries that already have suitably-skilled workforces in place.”