A significant shift in how we buy our vehicles is giving industry bosses the opportunity to shake off old car dealer stereotypes and promote an innovative new career path to future Sunderland graduates.

A group of senior executives from leading car brands across the region joined together on campus at the University of Sunderland to shine a light on job opportunities the industry now offers as the automotive landscape is changing.

Technology is driving the major shift in terms of online sales, digital marketing, customer engagement and a global demand for electric cars.

The executives all anticipate a significant transformation of their sector within the next five years with a need to succession plan for personnel with multi-skills from customer relations, servicing, operational management to agile digital-client management.

Anthony Rockingham, Managing Director of Croxdale Group, Richard Hyde, Head of Business of Lookers Audi, and Billy Upton, General Sales Manager of Stoneacre Newcastle, met up with representatives from the University’s Faculty of Business, Law and Tourism and careers service (Sunderland Futures) to explore potential collaborations in digital marketing, placement opportunities and career progression.

Dr Derek Watson, Associate Professor in Cultural Management at the University of Sunderland, said: “Our discussion with senior executives from the automotive industry further confirmed that our evolving academic programmes are built around much needed knowledge and skills for executive careers.

“We are delighted to have opened up a reciprocal working relationship, in which our students can gain live business exposure and in return provide the automotive industry with innovative solutions and access to our graduates, who can deliver much needed impact, in a highly competitive world.”

Anthony Rockingham, Managing Director of Croxdale Group, said: “We are delighted to be working alongside the University on this project. This calibration will no doubt benefit both organisations, as well as the students involved.

“The automotive industry isn’t currently recognised for the intensity of skills and knowledge required to perform at a high level in all areas. If you discuss working in a vehicle dealership with somebody from outside of the automotive sector, they instantly think ‘Car Salesperson’ which could be correct. However, it goes much deeper and much bigger than that!

“Vehicle dealerships alone have many roles from the ground up, requiring excellent talent and skills if it is to perform to a high standard in such a fast-moving field. Anywhere from operating the showrooms from the ground up, through to After-Sales, Marketing, Sales departments, Finance, Business Leadership.

“It is unquestionable, the diversity in skill set required to perform in this industry is transferable into many other well recognised industries, not to mention the opportunities to progress into other areas of automotive, such as working with manufacturer partners, production or headline agencies. It is for this reason Croxdale Group is committed to help with the programme, to increase awareness and attract great talent which in turn can only allow the automotive industry to become better recognised for its professionalism and speciality.”

Richard Hyde, Head of Business for Lookers ‘Wearside’ Audi, added: “It is important to attract a new raft of talent into the motor industry to give it exposure to a university generation, and to give University of Sunderland students the knowledge to inform choice about the vast career opportunities within our business.”

He added: “There are many misconceptions about the ‘motor trade’ and this will open up the sector to those who may not otherwise give consideration to a rapidly evolving, professional operation which embraces change, with the added benefit of having wholly transferable skills.”

Billy Upton, General Sales Manager of Stoneacre Newcastle, said: “The motor industry is changing at a rate of knots and not enough has been done over the past 10 years to prepare us for the next 10 years. Meeting with the University staff was a huge eye opener for me, and we discussed many ways that University could be used as a partner in finding our industry the next batch of employees. Exciting times lie ahead!”

The meeting resulted in a series of collaborative activities, including:

  • Guest Speaker sessions to inform students of the various executive career paths and provide insights of the automotive industry.
  • Provide live case studies for student to develop key skills, knowledge and commercially viable innovative solutions
  • Engage in recruitment fairs to better inform students on the automotive industry as an attractive career path with progression
  • Develop in collaboration a bespoke extra curriculum on Digital Marketing Sales with a placement for students.

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