Low pay scuppers recruitment

Rover claims that the best qualified engineers are lured overseas causing a skills shortage in Britain

Rover has blamed Britain’s uncompetitive pay rates for its difficulties in recruiting engineers for a new £30m design and engineering centre at Gaydon in Warwickshire.

The 360ha site was officially opened last week, providing what the car manufacturer claims are world-class research and development, design and vehicle testing facilities.

Rover advertised for 100 multi-discipline engineers earlier this year to add to the 650 already employed at Gaydon. Despite 1,400 applicants from all over the world, just over 50% of the positions have been filled.

`It is a reflection of the UK economy that the best qualified people are already employed in the US or Germany, where salaries are much higher. Ironically, many of these are British,’ said Geoff Upex, Rover design director.

Pay for engineers in Germany is said to be double the average British rates on offer from Rover of about £26,000.

Mike Burnett, director of concept engineering at Gaydon, said suitably qualified engineers are scarce and can command much higher salaries than previousy.

To counter these difficulties, Rover is pushing its German ownership and the attractions of the new centre as selling points. `Being BMW-owned has legitimised us much more than in the past and increased our attractiveness as an employer,’ said Burnett.

Over the past four years, Rover has relocated all its main R&D activities to Gaydon, and has improved its test and proving facilities. More than 2,000 people now work at the site.

By Arlene Foster