Jaguar Land Rover has unveiled plans to recruit 5,000 new engineers over the next year in a boost for British industry as the Brexit talks begin. The carmaker has just enjoyed a record year of sales bolstered by demand for luxury cars in China and North America, and needs thousands of new recruits, predominantly in the UK, to help develop new models, including electric cars.
JLR is the country’s biggest car manufacturer and has been held up by ministers as a poster child for British industry. It is also one of the UK’s largest exporters, with about 80% of its £24bn annual revenues generated from cars sold abroad.
Its expansion plans will bolster hopes that the UK’s export sector can help offset some of the domestic pressures on the economy in the years ahead as household budgets continue to be squeezed by weak pay growth and rising inflation on the back of the slide in sterling triggered by Brexit.
The pound’s weakness since the referendum has made imports to the UK more expensive, but it has also been a boon to some exporters because it makes their goods more competitive in overseas markets. The exchange-rate effect has also flattered the earnings of those companies with big overseas earnings.
JLR, owned by India’s Tata group, said that more than 1,000 of the new 5,000 engineering recruits would be electronic and software engineers. Faced with chronic skills shortages in the sector, the carmaker believes it has come up with an innovative way to reach candidates from a wider pool, and is working with Gorillaz to recruit people via the virtual band’s app.
Potential candidates will be set challenges via the app, including assembling the Jaguar I-PACE Concept, Jaguar’s first all-electric five-seater sports car. There will also be code-breaking challenges to test applicants’ “curiosity, persistence, lateral thinking and problem solving skills”.
JLR said: “The best performers will be fast-tracked through the recruitment process, helping to meet Jaguar Land Rover’s ambition to employ thousands of bright new talents over the next year. It’s a major change in the way the business looks for candidates, aiming to tackle the engineering skills gap, inspire and attract a diverse range of talent and new thinking.”
The company said it would also accept applications via traditional routes such as the JLR careers website. JLR’s main UK manufacturing and engineering sites are in Solihull and Castle Bromwich in Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Gaydon, Coventry and Halewood in Liverpool.
The wider UK car industry had a record year in 2016, with annual sales of new vehicles at just under £2.7m. Demand has partly been driven by consumers capitalising on cheap finance deals and those seeking more fuel-efficient vehicles.
But industry leaders have voiced fears about the outlook for UK carmakers if Britain leaves the EU. The Society for Motor Manufacturers and Traders warned in November that car manufacturing was at risk of “death by a thousand cuts” if companies chose to invest in other countries.
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