Driving Forces: Unveiling the Landscape of the UK Automotive Labour Market

Navigating Industry, Occupation, and Opportunities in a Dynamic Automotive Workforce


The automotive sector is currently facing its biggest skills challenge in the past two decades with a record number of vacancies and the need to meet new skills requirements to meet the green agenda. To address this challenge, creating a more diverse and inclusive workforce, as well as providing support and training to equip the workforce to deliver the government's climate commitments, are critical.


The UK automotive sector is a crucial part of the country's economy, representing a significant contribution to both GDP and employment. In 2022 the sector was responsible for 2.5% (£37 billion) to the UK economy. It employs 758,600 people, with the vast majority (78%) working in the automotive retail sector and the remaining 22% in automotive manufacturing. In addition to these jobs, there are 113,000 individuals working in automotive occupations outside of automotive retail and manufacturing. The sector is supported by a total of 98,500 establishments, with 97% of these being in automotive retail. Over the past decade the sector has created 70,000 new jobs across more than 200 different occupations. New technologies have driven growth in a number of subsectors, and job roles. The subsector Manufacture of Electrical and Electronic Equipment for Motor Vehicles has seen a 38% increase in jobs over the past 10 years.


One of the biggest challenges for the sector in 2022 has been the record vacancy rates across the sector. The current vacancy rate for motor trades is 5.1, the highest rate in past 21 years. Although post pandemic, the motor trade vacancy rates increased broadly in line with other industries as the UK experienced the ‘big resignation phenomenon’. Since summer 2022 whilst other industries started to fall, motor trades has continued to rise. In 2023, 'motor trades’ ranked 2nd when it comes to having the highest vacancy rate, second only to accommodation and food services. Analysis also highlights vehicle technicians, vehicle body builders and repairers, assemblers and vehicle paint technicians are all experiencing high labour churn. As well as the immediate vacancy issue, IMI analysis indicates that there will be an employment requirement of 111,400 jobs in the next 10 years across the 8 specific automotive occupations. 7,900 will be new jobs and 103,500 will be employment replacement (due to retirement, migration and occupational mobility). 41% of employment requirement is for vehicle technicians, a total of 45,800 technicians required.


Creating a more diverse and inclusive workforce and attracting individuals into the sector is imperative to meeting these challenges. Currently, just 19% of the sector are female and 18% are over the age of 55.


As well as insuring positions are filled, it is crucial that these are filled with individuals with the right skills. As the industry continues to evolve and new technologies, such as electric and autonomous vehicles, become more prevalent, the skills and expertise required of technicians and other workers in the industry are changing. In 2022, over 14,800 skilled technicians were certified, boosting the total number of qualified technicians able to safely work on electric vehicles to 39,000 - that's 16% of all technicians in the UK. However, the IMI predicts that by 2030, we will need 103,000 TechSafe qualified technicians to work with electric vehicles and warns of a potential shortfall of 4,500 qualified technicians by 2029. Although much attention has been highlighted on the introduction of EVs, it's equally (or perhaps more) urgent to ensure technicians have the skills to work with ADAS.


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