Last week, Honda’s factory in Swindon confirmed that it is to close.
The carmaker said it will shut the plant in 2021, with the loss of around 3,500 jobs, potentially thousands more in the supply chain.
Honda said the closure was unrelated to Brexit, and that is was the result of “unprecedented changes in the automotive industry”. This point was reiterated by Justin Tomlinson, the Conservative MP for North Swindon and Brexit backer.
Sir David Warren, the British ambassador to Japan from 2008 to 2012, told the Guardian: “The idea that Brexit uncertainty is irrelevant to this is fanciful. How are Honda supposed to calculate the costs and benefits of staying in the UK in the overall global context against such lack of clarity on the future terms of trade?”
Ian Howells, senior vice-president for Honda in Europe, suggested a fall in demand for diesel cars and tougher emissions regulations have shaken up the car industry. He told the BBC: “We’re seeing unprecedented change in the industry on a global scale. We have to move very swiftly to electrification of our vehicles because of demand of our customers and legislation.
“This is not a Brexit-related issue for us, it’s being made on the global-related changes I’ve spoken about.
“We’ve always seen Brexit as something we’ll get through, but these changes globally are something we will have to respond to. We deeply regret the impact it will have on the Swindon community.”
As many as 12 Welsh suppliers could also be hit by the decision to close the Swindon factory, motor industry insiders told the BBC on Monday.
Thomas Lowcock, general manager at InAutomotive spoke to BBC Wiltshire on Tuesday evening, to talk about the closure, and what those being affected by it could do now for their future careers:
“It’s a horrible time and the initial stage will be people going through panic about their future. The scenario here is that at least we do have enough time to get people into work before the plant closes itself. There are a number of people who are out there that can help them, and generally speaking, the UK automotive sector does have a big skill shortage at the moment. There will be a high demand for people who are unfortunately losing their jobs now.
“The market is extremely healthy at the moment, for a number of jobs. Put simply, there’s more automotive jobs in the UK than there are automotive jobseekers. Although it’s a horrible position for people to find themselves in, if they did choose to stay in the automotive sector, which we would encourage them to, there are still a vast amount of opportunities for people with transferable skills.
BBC’s Graham also asked Thomas whether relocation would be the only option for those who worked in the Honda factory.
“Yes, relocation is an option, or reskill themselves. Nationally there’s a shortage of vehicle technicians, mechanics, MOT testers. Because there’s a national shortage, the pay rates are increasing exponentially, so it’s a case of either changing or looking for a particular type of role, or relocating to areas where there are high demands for their current roles.
Graham also asked Thomas if there was anything families affected could do for reassurance?
“Firstly I’d recommend speaking to the automotive charity BEN, they have a lot of experience in this sort of thing. BEN helps people who have been or are in the same situation, so can give lots of advice. They specialise in helping people who find themselves in financial difficulty or suffering mental illness issues as well, but generally, they are set up to support everyone within the automotive sector, and that’s why everyone in the automotive sector supports BEN, as do we. Generally speaking there will be a high demand for skilled workers, so although it’s horrible news initially, the change could be a good thing in future in terms of future career options for them.
Thomas was also asked: What should people be doing right now? We could be talking about people who have been working at Honda for the last 20 years? They haven’t even thought about their CVs or anything like that, what should they be doing?
“The automotive market does change at a very rapid pace. There’s plenty of tips on the InAutomotive website about people that maybe haven’t written a CV for some time, top tips on what people are currently looking for in a CV, tips for interview questions and things like that. So they can find plenty of help on our website. Equally, I think the first stage of this is to start looking more long term security. Some people will look to get out as quickly as possible, and some people might want to upskill and get more qualifications for the future. There is a heck of a lot of support out there for people that find themselves in this horrible situation.”
To those affected by this, we send our deepest condolences. Please feel free to browse the latest jobs in Swindon on our website at the moment – we hope we can help you during such a difficult time.
Search here for automotive jobs within 25 miles of Swindon.
Image credit: Honda
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