Published on 10 Apr 2012 Sections

Wanted: 19,000 engineers

Japanese car giant Nissan has unveiled a new hatchback to built in the UK, creating 1,000 new jobs – but how many of those new posts will be filled by UK workers?

Nissan in Sunderland

Nissan plans to start building the car in Sunderland in 2014, directly creating an additional 225 jobs at the factory and leading to 900 new jobs at component companies supplying Nissan.

But with the area suffering from a lack of skilled staff, could the vacancies be filled by overseas staff?

James Ramsbotham, chief executive of the North East Chamber of Commerce said: “These jobs will mean both production lines will be working 24 hours a day, so it is great news for Nissan and the supply chain.

“We estimate that for every one Nissan job created, four more are then created across the supply chain.”

But the area is increasingly looking to developing nations such as India for staff. And without an influx of next-generation engineers the future looks bleak:

“One of our member organisations did a survey, which found that with so many engineers in their fifties approaching retirement, we could be 19,000 short in five years’ time.”

Nissan to create another 1,000 jobs in Sunderland

Alongside Nissan’s Skills Academy, which aims to train workers in engineering, Mr Ramsbotham visits schools across the north east to encourage school leavers to enter engineering careers.

“For too long, the mood music in this country was that engineering was not in vogue.

“It is not about working in dirty, smelly factories – they are some of the cleanest environments you can find.”

Last month, a study by the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSC) found the UK’s engineering sector was struggling to fill roles despite the fragile economy.

It found vacancies for engineers were up 1% year-on-year in January for permanent candidates while vacancies for temps and contractors were up 7% year-on-year in January.

Marilyn Davidson, Director of APSC said: “Engineering is one of the few bright spots in an otherwise fragile jobs market.

“The UK has a shortage of many engineering skills. With demand so buoyant the Government needs to ensure that the UK’s long-term under-production of engineers does not impede growth.”

“Access to skilled workers will have been one of the key drivers behind Nissan’s decision to expand in the UK.

But she warned that recruitment could be more difficult for smaller firms: “Big companies like Nissan can always attract talent, but for small businesses in the supply chain accessing the right skills can be very difficult .. If small engineering employers are struggling for skills, it can have a ripple effect throughout the sector.”

A Department for Business spokesman said: “The government funds a wide range of activities to encourage people from all backgrounds to consider careers in engineering.

“We are committed to improving the information available for prospective students on the employment prospects a career in the sector can offer.”

The creation of new jobs at Nissan was welcomed by the unions. Unite national officer Tony Murphy said: “Once again the UK car industry is proving it is a world class player … The Government urgently needs to learn from the UK car industry and start helping to drive growth across other sectors of UK manufacturing.”