Briefing note - TITLE | 3




BEIS Select Committee: Call for evidence, February 2023

Batteries for electric vehicle manufacturing

WMCA evidence


  1. The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) welcome the Committee’s call for evidence which will offer timely focus into the opportunities and challenges presented through electrification technologies.  This response will specifically consider question nine of the call for evidence regarding the skills of the workforce and how the WMCA is working with its partners, to deliver a partnered and strategic approach.  
  2. Automotive manufacturing in the West Midlands

a)       The shift to zero carbon will result in significant structural changes to everyday life and work, with a key shift to move from fossil fuels to alternative energy sources such as battery storage technology.  This is a cross cutting sectoral theme which we have recognised through our Plan for Growth strategy (hyperlinked), where we have identified electrification and battery storage devices as one of eight primary clusters set to see accelerated growth between now and 2030

b)       In the automotive sector, we have already started to see transition to the adoption of battery technology through electrification of powertrains and research into hydrogen solutions, stepping away from the combustion engine and the associated skills set.  This transition means the West Midlands is well placed to meet the opportunities of electrification, with the region accounting for one in six manufacturing jobs (approximately 46,500), the largest share of the UK’s automotive sectors workforce, and which contributes an estimated £3.2bn GVA.  

c)       The skills and talent capability of the region present the potential to meet the future demands of exciting new technologies such as electric vehicles, because of its allied disciplines and established infrastructure. The region offers proximity to more than 430 specialist automotive firms, including several large manufacturing employers such as Jaguar Land Rover, and a supply chain that accounts for over 14.5% of the country’s parts and accessories manufacturers. We are able to draw on and benefit from the expertise of industry experts and universities working at the intersection of research innovations in automotive manufacturing, electrification and battery technology, such as the £130m UK Battery Industrialisation Centre, the University of Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG), and the Advanced Propulsion Centre UK.

  1. A focus on continuous skills enhancement

d)       Ensuring we have people with the right skills to deliver this growth is critical.  The WMCA recognise the skills challenge arising from electrification, as a significant proportion of the current automotive workforce will require up-skilling or re-training, alongside developing the future workforce.  According to the Automotive Council Skills Report, the workforce upskilling requirements include several aspects of advanced capabilities in areas such as digital technologies, product design, and in production system and supply chain design. 

e)       To maintain a continuously competitive global workforce, we need to address the high-level skills needs now to keep pace with the innovations. Battery manufacturing is one component to retaining a strong domestic offer.  If the UK does not secure substantial domestic battery manufacturing capability, our future cost competitiveness is at risk, with 105,000 jobs in the UK automotive industry at risk between now and 2040.

f)        The WMCA aim to support the development and acquisition of skills to support people transition into jobs in electrification, and to enable new and existing jobs potential.  We are applying our devolved powers in adult skills using flexibilities, providing financial support through the Adult Education Budget, the Free Courses for Jobs scheme, Bootcamps and Apprenticeships which encompass both pre-recruitment training, as well as ongoing training for new and existing staff to ensure success. 

  1. A partnered approach

g)       We are committed to delivering for our region and our residents, realising the agendas for Levelling Up and the Plan for Growth through a strategically coherent and evidence-informed Skills Strategy, co-developed with regional employers, universities and further education colleges.  For example, WMG have worked in collaboration with the Catapult and Faraday Institution in developing a National Electrification Skills Framework (hyperlinked), aligned to common occupations in the automotive sector from levels 2 to 8.  The Framework will help to inform a considered response to the skills requirements, be that to create or deploy training for new skills, re-skill or up-skill of the workforce. WMG and further education colleges are exploring other ways in which to enhance pedagogy.

h)       Colleges across the region are developing a response also.  Such as the specialist Electric Vehicle Centres in City of Wolverhampton College, South and City College Birmingham, and Walsall College.  There are other examples that include a collaboration between Coventry & Warwickshire Colleges supported with capital investment through the skills development funding (SDF).

i)         We are working together to support employers, through shared and straightforward messaging to navigate the skills system as part of our initiatives for business support.  The regional Employer Representative Body (ERB) and the Local Skills Improvement Plan (LSIP) will add to insights through its exploration of electrification and battery storage manufacturing with employers.  There are risks which we acknowledge.  For example, employer and workforce engagement is central.  The coordinated strategy seeks to minimise the barriers.

j)         Our focus is to ensure that skills provision can meet the needs of employers and the workforce.  Our collaborative approach, through the Skills Development Group, is capitalising on the leadership of those institutions with expertise in the field of electrification to support a collective effort alongside the WMCA.  It will enable us to optimise resources, innovate in curriculum to keep pace with change and provide an accessible and relevant offer for employers, to access a network of provision that will support its existing and future workforce. 



WMCA, 13 February 2023