A new report has warned that the UK faces a potentially chronic shortage of skilled workers, which could undermine its stated ambitions to become a global leader in the field of connected and autonomous vehicles.
The analysis, published by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) and self-driving technology start-up StreetDrone, found that the switch to driverless cars will create 37,300 jobs in the UK by 2035, of which nearly 10,000 would be net new positions.
However, suggests the report, despite the rising demand for skills in technical fields such as autonomous vehicles, there will not be enough young people emerging from university and apprenticeship courses to meet that demand.
While the number of autonomous vehicle industry jobs is predicted to grow by 9.6% each year from 2020, the number of UK enrolments on relevant degree courses is set to grow by just 2% annually, and by 3.9% for apprenticeships. In addition, there are currently only three undergraduate degrees specifically designed for the industry, warns the research.
Many of the new roles would be in the direct production of driverless vehicles, found the research, but there is also potential for wider job creation as workers become more productive thanks to self-driving cars, and infrastructure is modified to accommodate autonomous vehicles.
“Despite claims that artificial intelligence is going to steal people’s jobs, this report reveals driverless technology will actually create thousands of new jobs in the UK,” said Mike Potts, Managing Director of StreetDrone.
“This won’t just be in manufacturing vehicles and developing AI software to run them, but also in industries such as construction, where there will be jobs to build the right public road infrastructure, and in maintenance, where we’ll see skilled jobs to repair and maintain the vehicles.
“If Britain is to be one of the best places in the world to develop, test and sell connected and autonomous vehicles, we need more of the brightest brains studying the subject – at present we’re heading for a colossal skills shortage.
“That’s why our aim is to get self-driving technology into UK universities, giving more people access to testing at an affordable price. With the right investment and tools, more students and researchers will be able to build and test safety apps, which previously was only available to car companies like Uber and Google.”
The report identifies a selection of job types set to be in demand as the connected and autonomous vehicle sector grows. A large share of the jobs associated with the design and production of the vehicle autonomy package will be accounted for by highly-paid technical jobs, such as programmers, software developers and IT professionals, according to the analysis.
However, it also identifies the potential for considerable employment in skilled manual professions, such as the assembly of the cameras and sensors needed for the operation of connected and autonomous vehicles.
Pablo Shah, economist at Cebr, said, “Annual enrolments onto relevant university degrees and apprenticeships are rising steadily, with around 200,000 entries into computer science, information technology, engineering or manufacturing degrees or apprenticeships.
“However, if annual enrolments continue to increase at the current rate, they are unlikely to keep up with the expected surge in demand for technical skills that will be generated by the emergence of the CAV sector, and more broadly by the growth of fields such as artificial intelligence and big data.”