A former global director at Jaguar Land Rover is the new chair of a taskforce set up by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) to drive up skills in the automotive sector.
Ron Lee worked for Jaguar Land Rover during a 35-year career in the sector. He is now heading up the WMCA’s Automotive Skills Taskforce, which is providing strategic leadership across the region to tackle the skills challenges facing the industry.
A Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, he was global director of Powertrain Engineering for 17 years and developed the business into a standalone engineering function able to compete globally.
After a successful career in product innovation and launch for numerous original equipment manufacturers and with many suppliers, Mr Lee now advises companies on the strategy, key decisions, technical structures and methods to manufacture new products.
There are 1,100 automotive businesses in the West Midlands, which contribute £3.2bn to the region’s economy and employ 46,000 staff.
The Automotive Skills Taskforce is bringing the industry together with education and training providers to equip local people with the skills that the sector needs to adopt emerging new technologies.
Its members include major employers such as Jaguar Land Rover and BMW, small and medium-sized enterprises from within the supply chain, industry bodies, the University of Warwick, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and representatives from the Local Enterprise Partnerships.
Mr Lee said: “The West Midlands is the centre of automotive employment in the UK and the industry has a huge economic impact in the region and nationally.
“The sector is making unprecedented changes in technology as it responds to the demands of competing globally in a low-carbon, low-emissions, autonomous, connected and highly automated transport industry.
“Having enjoyed a fascinating 35-year career in the automotive industry, I believe it’s crucial that others can reskill to enjoy a long, rewarding career and young people are able to thrive in this brilliant, technologically challenging sector.”
Cllr George Duggins, leader of Coventry City Council and WMCA portfolio holder for productivity and skills, said: “Automotive businesses in this region employ 28% of the UK’s overall automotive workforce – the vast majority within the supply chain.
“We need to make sure that the region’s automotive businesses have the chance to upskill and reskill staff to remain competitive globally and help attract investment.
“Ron has a proven track record at board level in the industry and I’m delighted that he is chairing the Automotive Skills Taskforce.”
The WMCA has ring-fenced £3m for the sector from the ‘Beat the Bots’ digital retraining fund and the adult education budget to provide training for new automotive staff, and to help re-train existing workers in the supply chain.