Friday, 28 November 2014

JLR makes a bid to bolster vendor skills

Over 50 Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers attended an event this week staged by JaguarLandRover (JLR), the UK’s largest automotive employer, to share best practices around skills development and address recruitment challenges.

The shortage of skilled engineers in the UK is an ongoing challenge and the Royal Academy of Engineers predicts there will be a shortfall of 200,000 by 2020.

Whilst JLR is well-known as an employer with industry-leading programmes to attract the next generation of engineers and technologists to help its technology and engineering-led business achieve ambitious plans for global growth, some suppliers find it more difficult to attract or retain new talent.

During the day, suppliers heard about JLR’s Inspiring Tomorrow’s Workforce traineeship programme, which was developed as part of the company’s Responsible Business of the Year legacy.

The programme targets young people aged 16-24 and offers a mix of employability training and work experience in the company’s manufacturing plants to prepare them for apprenticeships and other employment opportunities.

The course, managed in partnership with Birmingham Metropolitan College, has helped 26 young people gain employment since it was launched in November 2013 and is now open to JLR suppliers looking to support young people and prepare them for future job opportunities.

Suppliers also learnt about JLR’s award winning apprentice programme, which was rated Top Employer for School and College Leavers 2014 - 2015 by All About School Leavers.  There are 620 apprentices currently undertaking the scheme across its six UK sites and the company is currently searching for up to 200 apprentices to join the programme next year.

The four-year Advanced Apprenticeship is aimed at GCSE students whilst the six year Higher Apprenticeship is aimed at A-Level entrants.  Apprentices work in cutting-edge product development and manufacturing environments benefitting from paid employment and fully-funded vocational qualifications up to sponsored degrees.

Ian Harnett, JLR’s purchasing director, commented, “JaguarLandRover has ambitious plans for global growth which will see our vehicle volumes increasing over the next few years, providing many opportunities to our supply chain. We have long-term, strategic relationships with our suppliers and are keen to support them in all areas of business. By sharing our best practices in training and developing future talent, we hope to give them a crucial insight into how JaguarLandRover addresses these challenges which will help them strengthen their capability and support their business growth.”

Heath Cade, HR director from supplier Stadco added, “Stadco has been supplying parts to JLR for over 30 years and has an excellent working relationship with the company. The Supplier Skills Forum was of particular interest to us as we seek to inspire and employ the most talented people to be part of the future development of Stadco. This event provided an excellent insight into best practice skills programmes from JLR and its suppliers. This will enable us to maximise opportunities like apprenticeships and graduate programmes to address the skills gaps that Stadco and the automotive industry as a whole is facing.”

COMMENT. Vendors to JLR have long complained that the vehicle manufacturer siphons off the best engineering graduates emerging each year from UK universities, often making it difficult for them to compete as JLR occupies such a high profile in the industry. In many a graduate’s eyes the attraction of working for a Tier 1 or a Tier 2 supplier to JLR counts for nothing compared with being offered a job at the OEM where the opportunity to climb the management ladder is eye-watering. So vendors will welcome any initiative that paves the way for young people to join the ranks of UK component manufacturing has to be welcomed.
Additionally, JLR executives are painfully aware that as the company’s product range expands and quality standards improve still further, so the need for high quality components from suppliers to match JLR’s manufacturing standards becomes even more imperitive. In the words of the old proverb: For the want of a shoe the horse was lost. So JLR has to keep pushing its vendors to raise standards and this in turn requires high quality engineers and managers.
Meanwhile, the choice by JLR of Stadco Automotive Ltd as a supplier to make an additional comment to its press statement is interesting. It will be recalled Stadco Automotive became famous a decade ago for acquiring the Fort Parkway press shop with its state-of-the-art Schuler press lines and ABB robots, able to stamp both steel and aluminium sheet. Stadco Automotive's parent company acquired the press shop from the doomed Mayflower Corporation – a major supplier to Jaguar, Land Rover and Rover Group. Mayflower went into administration just 10 years ago – 31 March 2004. In so doing, Stadco Automotive effectively acquired a pristine, state-of-the-art press shop it could not otherwise have afforded to build itself. The implications of the purchase were fourfold: The purchase price probably did not reflect Mayflower’s full initial investment. The acquisition potentially increased Stadco Automotive's customer catchment capability. Fort Parkway is located but a stone’s throw from Jaguar’s Castle Bromwich facility ideal for the shipment of bodyside and other important skin panels relatively easy (such components are prone to damage if transported hundreds of miles); and the Schuler press lines are almost identical, if slightly younger in age, than the Schuler press lines at Castle Bromwich. This advantage offered major production implications as personnel from both companies can be in close contact. And, finally, for some years, the Stadco Automotive press lines were under-utilised with the result that their full potential was not exploited. Stadco Automotive claims it processes 10,000 tonnes of aluminium a year. It would be interesting to know just how well Fort Parkway'sorder book stands going forward. JM

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