European Automotive Skills

The continuing innovations in the automotive sector urgently require new policy solutions to support the development of highly qualified professionals and to counter the increasing skills shortage, especially in comparison with dynamic third countries. The knowledge and know-how of the workforce is at the core of the competitiveness of the European automotive supply chain

The automotive suppliers collectively employ five million people in Europe, making it a leading creator of wealth on our continent. This industry is constantly adapting to a number of megatrends that impact our mobility today and in the future. These currently include further urbanisation, demographic changes (especially in Asia and Europe), smart and sustainable cities. As a consequence, European industry is expected to develop innovative solutions on further energy efficiency, connectivity, hybridisation and alternative powertrains. In addition to the EU and national frameworks for competitiveness overall, such innovations urgently require new policy solutions to support the development of highly qualified automotive professionals and to counter the increasing skills shortages we are experiencing in the European automotive sector.

Competitiveness challenge

Increasingly, the industry in Europe and the developed world in general, is battling to compete against their lower cost rivals, most of whom are also developing significant design, engineering and RDI capabilities. To remain competitive the European automotive industry should concentrate in creating high added value as the labour costs are likely to remain very high in global comparison. It is therefore essential to reduce the direct and indirect charges to compensate for these high product costs. In addition industry must focus on increasing its productivity and on developing innovative solutions and services in several market segments including small passenger cars. These cover products and services featuring:

Skills gap

A skilled workforce is an absolute necessity to innovate, develop and manufacture new technologies and innovative processes for competing successfully in a global market environment. In this context the core problem is a qualitative and quantitative shortage of skills. This is due mainly to the ageing workforce, the poor image of the manufacturing sector in the eyes of young talent, the wide diversity of national education systems and cultures and the ever accelerating pace of technological change. There is a tremendous need to improve the available skills base by increasing the number of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) graduates and fostering inter-disciplinarity. The EU and Member States must take a longer term approach and anticipate the needs of the industry in respect of skills, innovation and the completion of the internal market. In the immediate future, to ensure the availability of highly qualified personnel, Europe must focus on high quality vocational and educational training that reflects labour market needs.

Funding

Funds are needed to train and retrain the workforce from traditional tasks to design and deliver the technologies and services for new mobility solutions. Considering the limits of EU competences in education policy, the EU should focus its support programs on the identification and promotion of best practices in key areas where Europe already enjoys or could achieve technology leadership. To secure the skill sets, industry should work on strengthening the attractiveness of the sector; close connections between university and industry; sharing of national best practices. The European Automotive Skills Council will be a useful tool to reach this goal.

Therefore, joint efforts by industry and political actors are urgently needed for developing and providing a skilled workforce for the innovative and competitive European automotive industry. We urge the European Commission to elevate this to a priority issue with European automotive stakeholders and specialists in skills and innovation within the new GEAR 2030 framework. Failure to adopt more progressive skills and innovation policies for the European automotive sector will significantly impede the European industry’s efforts to develop new competitive advantages through high-value innovations over the emerging market car producing countries