Avenues into the automotive industry
The automotive industry is competitive but if you have a passion for transport and a technical mind you should find the perfect role. From garage mechanics to high-performance car designers the diversity of jobs is huge. These are the key elements you’ll need to consider as you embark on your career;
Qualifications in the automotive industry
The minimum qualification for working in the automotive industry is an HNC in automotive engineering or a similar subject. This would be followed by an apprenticeship or training scheme lasting a year or two. You can complete an HND and/or foundation course, which normally still requires a training scheme to qualify. If you are going to university to study engineering, it’s always better to choose a course that includes an industry placement year or internship programme. Whatever your choice of qualification, try to get hands-on experience as quickly and as often as possible. Few organisations will take on an inexperienced engineer, however long their list of qualifications.
Where do you want to be in the process?
At the creative end of the industry, automotive design involves the initial conceptualisation of the vehicle. Generally, people who work in design have completed a degree in automotive engineering or automotive design but it is possible to work your way up the ranks. Automotive designers have both creative and engineering skills. An in-depth understanding of engine efficiency, cost-effectiveness, safety and environmental concerns are all important at the design stage. Strong drawing skills (digital and/or hand) are essential as well as a solid foundation in the fundamentals of engineering. Automotive design could be compared to the role of the architect within the building industry – highly qualified individuals who can combine a good balance of art and science. If you’re looking to become a leading automotive designer, the MA course in Vehicles Design at the Royal College of Art is a particularly prestigious qualification to hold.
The development stage could be one of the most rewarding parts of the manufacturing process for a skilled engineer. If you are passionate about the fundamentals of engineering, problem-solving, prototype building and testing, this is the sector for you. You will be part of a team taking the automotive designs and making them a working reality. Again a degree in automotive, mechanical or industrial engineering is normally required but it is possible to enter as an apprentice or intern if you can demonstrate suitability for the role in other ways. Using the construction metaphor again the engineer at the development stage would be the equivalent of a structural engineer.
Automotive manufacturing covers a plethora of careers from toolmakers (and don’t for a moment think that sounds an easy job!), paint technicians, programme engineers to final assembly. Automotive manufacturing includes highly qualified engineers down to first-time apprentices. If you want the hands-on car plant experience then this is where you need to be. To use the construction metaphor once again, this is the building site where you will be working with a huge range of trades getting that vehicle off the blueprint and onto the road.
Maintenance jobs in the automotive industry vary as well. You may want to work for the local mechanic, for the Jaguar repairs team or even for the classic car restoration specialists. Perhaps a call-out engineer for the AA would suit you best. Mechanics tend to work in close teams, need a solid general knowledge of the workings of a vehicle and, importantly be public-facing. If you can be that reassuring mechanic saving the day then automotive maintenance is a rewarding, hands-on career.
Choose your company in the automotive industry
The automotive industry is varied in its operations. You can work for global giants like Ford or Nissan or you can work for small niche companies like Bowler or Bristol where the working environment will be totally different. Whether you want to work on HGVs or F1 you need to have a focus and a plan. Explore different avenues. Perhaps look at companies that focus on alternative fuels or driverless vehicles. The more you research the more likely you are to find the area that suits you best. Remember that the glamorous worlds of motorsports or high-performance vehicles are rarely what they seem and you need to find what sustains your interest for the long haul.
Check out our current opportunities in the automotive industry here.