However, more than half of Midlands manufacturing and engineering firms expect to take on extra staff this year, even though they see the skills shortage and uncertainty over future UK visa policy as potential brakes on their acceleration plans.
The stark findings come from the 2017 Automotive Manufacturing Salary Survey by Midlands-based engineering recruitment specialist, Consilium Recruit, which surveyed a cross-section of automotive manufacturing and engineering employers across the car-producing Midlands.
It found that 46% expected to take on more people this year – a drop on last year's figure of 52%, which reflects increased uncertainty after the Brexit referendum and concerns about the additional labour cost burdens and increased parts costs, the firm said.
Consilium Recruit business development manager Paul Gunnell (pictured) said there was cautious optimism for modest but sustained growth in the automotive sector but the shortage of engineering talent is continuing to preoccupy the industry.
Gunnell said: "With severe skills shortages across manufacturing and engineering at an all-time high, the government needs to clarify visa policy so that growing firms can not only attract much-needed global talent into the UK workplace, but can also assure those already domiciled here that they are welcome to stay."