Valuable apprenticeships have been reduced to begging because teenagers are too obsessed with Facebook and computer games to learn a hands-on trade, a senior motor industry boss has revealed.
Even some teachers are turning a generation of youngsters off the ‘joy’ of making and driving real cars – especially sporty ones, he said.
The warning came from Ansar Ali, chief executive of sports-car maker Caterham at a conference of more than 300 motor industry bosses at London’s Canary Wharf on Monday.
As the UK’s booming motor industry seeks to plug vital skills shortages, unmotivated teenagers are turning away from manufacturing jobs offering hands-on skills using real ‘nuts and bolts’.
Instead, they are in favour of the virtual attractions of ‘driving’ a screen car on a Playstation or over the internet, he said.
‘‘The young generation who come in are not interested. They seem to get no joy from what they are doing. You would think people would have an interest in building real cars,” the Daily Mail quoted him as saying.
“But there’s a complete lack of engagement. We do struggle. Children today just don’t seem interested in sports cars. They’d rather be on Facebook. They are more hooked on computer games,” Ali said.
He told the conference that he struggled to find young people to work at his company’s factory in Dartford, Kent, creating the hand-built two-seater sports cars despite an average salary of 17,000 pounds.
Additionally, some schools are adding to the problem by demonising the motor car and the motor industry as something to be criticised rather than celebrated.
Motor manufacturers said the problem and skill shortage was most ‘challenging’ among the ‘less glamorous’ supplier and component companies.
Even BBC TV presenter Justin Webb, who was chairing the motor industry conference, admitted that sports cars are not seen as ‘cool’ among young people.
“Cars at my children’s school are seen as a problem,” he said.
Ali, whose firm makes the back-to-basics two-seater ‘Seven’ sports car said that despite the recession he was struggling to find and retain motivated young employees.
The firm builds around 500 of the Seven sports cars a year, costing around 24,000 pounds each, of which half go for export. They are available as completed cars, or in kit-form which enthusiasts can then assemble at home in their garages.
Later he said that out of 106 of his employees about 30 work on assembling cars and about a dozen are in their late teens or early twenties.
Training is ‘on the job’ but turnover is high.
“The younger generation seem to get no joy from driving, from building a car from scratch, or from meeting the customers. They are disengaged. I think it’s a cultural thing,” Ali said.
Their virtual world is more important than the real world. It’s a real challenge for the Government, the industry and the education system.’
“We do have one or two outstanding individuals. But recently we offered people tickets and the chance to go at no charge to the F1 grand prix. Only one person went,” he added.