The UK automotive industry is fighting for better perception among schools, colleges and universities.
Bentley Motors head of manufacturing and labour relations Leonie Williams is a member of a group of like-minded HR professionals which meets quarterly to discuss skills and recruitment strategy, and she has concerns that while young people are gaining interest in degrees and careers in social media, sociology and even computer gaming, not enough are attracted to engineering and automotive careers.
At the recent SMMT International Automotive Summit in London she urged employers to bring young people into motor retail at an early age through work experience placements. Bentley supports 200 placements yearly.
Her call was backed by Citroen UK managing director Linda Jackson. Jackson questioned whether the industry's perception was "sexy enough" for young people, particularly at retailer level.
Apprentices are trained more in electronic technology than gearboxes now and the role of the sales executive is changing to embrace technology such as video walk-arounds too, she said.
The industry needs to attract younger people who are most familiar with the latest technology and systems, she said. "The customer journey is changing faster than the industry is adapting," Jackson added.
Williams added that when finding candidates for Bentley's graduate programme many lack the ability to apply their theoretical knowledge.
"Many students are simply not ready for work, it appears to be a shock" she added.
Bentley's development programme includes problem solving skills, presentation skills and community-based work that develops their leadership capabilities.