TRW Automotive is looking at relaunching an engineering apprenticeship programme to help cope with an ever-increasing demand for skilled automotive engineers.
The prospect was announced as the firm revealed it has 40 engineering vacancies at its Solihull site, a global design centre for electric power steering and braking systems.
Although the company said it was making “good progress” filling the vacancies it has pointed to an acute shortage of people going into engineering in the UK.
Martin Furber, HR director European steering said: “We are making really good progress in filling vacancies but as we do we are getting more opportunities at the site as we get more contracts. The more vacancies we fill – the more we create.”
The latest recruitment drive comes hot on the heels of a busy hiring period at one of the UK centres for the global automotive giant.
“There have been 150 new jobs for engineers on this site in the last few months and we currently have 40 vacancies outstanding,” said Mr Furber.
“TRW came out of the recession well, we are winning new business and we need engineers to help us deliver that business.
“We have weathered the storm better than some of our competitors and now we are reaping the benefits.
“But we can’t rely on the Government to encourage people into engineering, we also have a responsibility to get young people excited about going into engineering.”
The company’s commitment to finding the engineering talent of the future is evidenced by a recruitment roadshow travelling to colleges across the UK.
“It’s a great opportunity to get out and find real talent,” added Mr Furber. “But it is not easy to find and we have to use all sorts of creative means.”
And the revival of an apprenticeship is seen as the most likely long-term solution.
“We are looking at starting an apprenticeship programme – historically we used to do that,” added Mr Furber. “We are passionate about building on the success of this site for the future.
“It is difficult to persuade people to come into engineering, which is a shame as lots of good engineering is done in this country.
“There are a lot of opportunities for secondment and travel overseas but it is not seen as an interesting career.
Resourcing manager Rebecca Austin, who is forging links between the company and educational institutions echoed Mr Furber’s views but believes the Government can play a part in developing the engineering talent of the future.
“We are primarily focusing on university-level students at the moment and trying to build a pipeline of talent,” said Ms Austin. “Through the downturn it was put on hold but we want to kick-start it. We recognise it is the right thing to do and the right thing for the business.”
In addition TRW is building relationships with universities who offer related courses as well as working locally with Solihull College and even the armed forces, helping ex-servicemen who might have the relevant skills forge a new career.
Ms Austin revealed the company had already got the ball rolling locally.
“We have started discussions with Solihull College about apprenticeships,” she said. “We would be looking at getting it going in 2012.”
In the meantime the company will try to find the skilled engineers it needs in the short term, though it is no easy task.
“Because we have got projects and business we have won we need highly trained engineers who can land on our doorstep and do the job from day one,” added Ms Austin. “But because engineering has not been a popular career choice there are not many people with those skills and every automotive company is competing for those skills.
“It is a problem right now but all we can do is try and fix it for the future by bringing talent in. By bringing people in earlier in their career we can help them develop and grow, so three years down the line we have people with enough experience to fill those roles.’’
“What would be good is for the Government to recognise the situation and have a strategy for developing engineering skills in the UK and that has to be from grass roots level.”