Skills for the future
Social distancing is challenging to implement in assembly lines, where even highly automated procedures, such as robotically attaching windscreens, still require the intervention of half a dozen workers. Therefore the potential risk to production line workers is well above average and so is the share of their tasks that can be further automated (see Figure 12).
Figure 12: Automation and Covid-19 risk: Exposure of automotive workers
Source: “Automation risk in the EU labour market” and “EU jobs at highest risk of Covid-19 social distancing”. Own calculations. Note: Size of a “bubble indicates number of jobs in the automotive industry.
As a result the pandemic is expected to accelerate automation because it can help avoid or reduce costs and future uncertainties associated with social distancing measures.
For individuals, the automation risk rises with age and is higher for those with low level education. The most exposed production line occupations in the industry are therefore assemblers, machine operators, metalworkers, electro-engineering workers and manufacturing labourers. More than 1 in 4 people working in these occupations are 50 years or older and a similar share of people is low skilled. These workers typically also have less access to training that would help them adapt to workplace changes or to find alternative employment in case of lay-off. This is a true challenge for stakeholders and VET policy makers. How to ensure that accelerating automation will not create winners and losers, but rather winners and, at least, good adapters?
Automotive enterprises invest a lot in training, but down the value chain of the industry finding sufficient resources for skill development is challenging. Once again, an east-west EU divide is visible: car manufacturers in the west are more robotised than their suppliers and are better able to cope with social distancing measures. They also tend to have more resources to cope with the investments necessary to mitigate Covid-19 risks, to help their workers to cope with change and to provide retraining.
To ensure operations function smoothly during the Covid-19 pandemic, training is essential and cuts across many areas. There is a need to train people on health and safety procedures to ensure protection of staff as well as to expand worker’s skills portfolio so they are able to perform in multiple roles and if re-arrangement of staff is needed in case of sickness and self-isolation.
Digital skills training is needed to expand remote working opportunities; developing skills for flexible handling of value chain disruptions or risk assessment skills to identify possible weaknesses in processes.
It is necessary to further support the adaptability of managers, workers and whole organizations to flexible refocus activities to areas where the industry can use its knowledge and skills to come up with demanded products; training to master the use of newly introduced technologies and last (but not least); training for workers whose skills may become obsolete with radically changing processes or technologies (see Figure 13).
Figure 13: Skills for the future automotive industry
 The following divisions are part of the automotive manufacturing sector:
C 29.1- motor vehicle manufacturing
C 29.2 - manufacture of motor vehicle bodies, trailers and semi-trailers
C 29.3 - motor vehicle parts and accessories manufacturing
 Blueprint for Sectoral Cooperation on Skills – Automotive: Responding to skill mismatches at the sectoral level
 European Sector Skills Council: Automotive industry. Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/social/BlobServlet?docId=18795&langId=en and https://www.fircroft.com/blogs/the-automotive-industry-employs-more-people-than-you-think-71462610395
 European Sector Skills Council: Automotive industry. Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/social/BlobServlet?docId=18795&langId=en
 Eurostat Structural business statistics. Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/web/structural-business-statistics/data/database
 UK data were excluded from analysis
 Cedefop Skills OVATE. Available at: https://www.cedefop.europa.eu/en/data-visualisations/skills-online-vacancies
 The Online job vacancy market in the EU.
Available at: https://www.cedefop.europa.eu/en/publications-and-resources/publications/5572
 Available at: https://www.cedefop.europa.eu/en/publications-and-resources/data-visualisations/skills-forecast
 International Federation of Robotics: World Robotics 2019. Executive summary. Available at: https://ifr.org/downloads/press2018/Executive%20Summary%20WR%202019%20Industrial%20Robots.pdf
 ECS 2019: Overview report.
Available at: https://www.eurofound.europa.eu/publications/report/2020/european-company-survey-2019-overview-report
 ECS 2019 microdata. Own calculations.
 Since 2009, car production in the EU grew by 3M and reached 16.5M in 2018. European Automobile Manufacturers Association. Available at: https://www.acea.be/statistics/article/eu-passenger-car-production
 Interactive map: Production impact of COVID-19 on the European auto industry. Available at: https://www.acea.be/news/article/interactive-map-covid-19-impact-on-eu-automobile-production-up-until-septem
 EU car sales: COVID recovery expected to start in 2021, auto industry says. Available at: https://www.acea.be/press-releases/article/eu-car-sales-covid-recovery-expected-to-start-in-2021-auto-industry-says
 “The car will become a computer on wheels”. Available at: https://www.rolandberger.com/en/Publications/The-car-will-become-a-computer-on-wheels.html
 Automotive Electronics Market will be Worth $615.3 Billion by 2030 as a Result of Rising Demand for Vehicles. Available at: https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2020/03/16/2000777/0/en/Automotive-Electronics-Market-will-be-Worth-615-3-Billion-by-2030-as-a-Result-of-Rising-Demand-for-Vehicles-P-S-Intelligence.html
 The Economist: The world’s car giants need to move fast and break things. Available at: https://www.economist.com/briefing/2020/04/25/the-worlds-car-giants-need-to-move-fast-and-break-things
 Skills Panorama. Own calculations.