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THE NEW DRIVING FORCE; Car firms take on this year's new recruits.

Byline: Monday Spotlight With Jenny Waddington

BRITAIN'S automotive industry is continuing to accelerate - fuelled by some major investments and the creation of new fuel efficient models.

New car sales have risen for the 18th consecutive month, according to the latest figures - with a 10.9 per cent increase on the number of cars sold in August 2012.

But government and business leaders are keen to see the sector investing heavily in careers and schemes to ensure the country has the skills pool it needs to secure the future of the UK automotive industry.

And this month, two Coventry car giants have underlined their commitment to developing the next generation of workers by welcoming their latest tranche of graduates, apprentices and industrial placement students. PSA Peugeot Citroen and Jaguar Land Rover have continued their recruitment campaigns this year - attracting thousands of applicants, all keen to become the next generation of workers who will help shape the future of the resurgent sector.

This year, almost 2,500 youngsters competed for the 25 placements at Coventry's PSA Peugeot Citroen plant. Bosses say around 900 people put themselves forward for one of the six graduate places, a further 200 applied for a business apprenticeship and a staggering 1,400 battled it out for one of the 12 industrial placement positions.

"PSA Peugeot Citroen has a successful history with the trainee programme and we are very proud of this success," said Jenny Price, the firm's training and resourcing manager.

"As a company we recognise the importance of bringing new people into the business and helping them to develop their careers.

"These new recruits bring a lot to our business, they have a fresh outlook, a willingness to learn and develop and lots of enthusiasm.

"These opportunties open up different routes into employment for the trainees. The university route is not necessarily for all students and so those who are unable to pursue the university route it is important for them to know that there are alternatives.

"For those who do choose the university route, both the graduate and the industrial placement programmes offer a structured introduction to the world of work."

The programmes at PSA Peugeot Citroen are structured to provide all the necessary tools for a new recruit to gain valuable experience and develop their career.

The company runs a week-long induction for trainees in a bid to introduce them to the programme and to the business.

"We want to provide them with a solid understanding of PSA, but also ensure they have an opportunity to bond as a group and experience the PSA culture," added Ms Price.

"During the inductions, we task the trainees with a community project, giving them an opportunity to participate in corporate social responsibility from day one.

"From a company perspective, we are not just supporting our trainees, we are putting them on a journey to become the future leaders for our organisation."

Among those who have started their placement this summer is 18-year-old Oliver Koczkowski, who is one of the seven business apprentices at the firm.

The former Heart of England Sixth Form student from Coventry joined the company last month after completing his A levels in business, economics and physical education.

"I felt as though university just wasn't for me," said Oliver. "I re-ally wanted to get into a workplace environment and I have always had a very strong interest in the automotive industry.

"I visited the apprentices.org website and found the advert for Peugeot. I knew straight away that I wanted it, but I knew there would be a lot of people going after it. When I found out that I had been successful I was really surprised and ecstatic."

Oliver, who today starts his third week with the company, has been placed within the IT department - which he says will be reviewed after a year.

"I really enjoy the work here and the people are so friendly. It is both challenging and intriguing and I am really enjoying the fact that I am gaining valuable on-the-job training. The main concern for school and college leavers right now is that there are no jobs out there. A lot of my friends are still looking for work and I feel very lucky that I have already, at the age of 18, got my first step onto my chosen career path. My aim now is to work really hard for Peugeot Citroen and work my way up."

Francesca McGuinn claims her new position at the firm is like 'a dream come true'. The 21-year-old from Packington in Ashby-de-la-Zouch joined the company at the beginning of September and has set her sights on a managerial role within the next four years.

"I was so excited to hear that I had got the job," she said. "It was like a dream come true for me.

"I find it so interesting and varied, no two days are ever the same. We get to do so much and I really enjoy attending the meetings and learning more about the business as a whole.

"My goal is to become a manager within the next four years and I believe that is achievable as everybody working at Peugeot Citroen gets the opportunity to progress within the company.

"In the shorter term, I hope that by the end of the year I can find a place here from where I can help the company move forward."

Twenty-year-old Natalie Gibb was one of 12 people to secure an industrial placement at the firm - which will see the Northumbria University student spend a year in Coventry gaining hands-on experience.

Having already completed two years of her course in human resource management, Natalie hopes to prove herself over the next 12 months in the hope of securing a graduate position when she finishes her studies.

"I absolutely love it here," she said. "The company culture is very welcoming, supportive and very friendly and I love the fact that I am doing real work and not just making people's coffee.

"I feel very fortunate to have secured this placement - especially when you hear that 1,400 people applied. There is a great deal of pressure to find a placement when you are at university - only 50 per cent of students manage to find somewhere.

"For me, this was the best position.

I really wanted to get a place at Peugeot Citroen and I hope to spend the next year proving myself because I would love to come back after I graduate."

Ms Price added: "We have many success stories of trainees and graduates going on to very senior positions within the group. We hope to be able to continue to provide opportunities for graduates, industrial placement students and business apprentices to join our well established, proven schemes and become part of a dynamic global organisation."

JLR welcomes its latest tranche of recruits JAGUAR Land Rover has this month taken on a further 273 graduates.

The 2013 intake were joined on their first day by 19 graduates recruited by JLR's National Sales Companies in South Africa, the USA, China, Australia and Europe.

This latest tranche of graduates takes the total number recruited in the last three years to almost 1,000.

Recruited from many of the country's leading academic institutions, the new graduates are joining at an exciting juncture in the company's rich history.

Dr. Ralf Speth, Jaguar Land Rover CEO said: "Jaguar Land Rover's drive towards excellence in research, design and innovation has seen us invest heavily in our business but our future success lies in our ability to deliver even more advanced and sustainable products.

"This can only be achieved through a continued commitment to the next generation of innovators who will lead the advancement of technologies required to shape the future of our company and the wider automotive indust r y."

In July, Jaguar Land Rover - which has its global headquarters in Coventry, was named Responsible Business of the Year by Business in the Community for, amongst other things, its role in championing the agenda around the advancement of skills and development of young people.

CAPTION(S):

SUCCESSFUL APPLICANTS: Natalie Gibb, Oliver Koczkowski and Francesca McGuinn

NEW RECRUITS: The new graduates, apprentices and trainees arrive at Peugeot in Pinley House, Coventry
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Sep 30, 2013
Words:1375
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