Morven Fraser will never forget this week. And with good reason too, because the University of Glasgow student has just won the 2015 Autocar-Courland Next Generation Award for her innovative energy storage concept. She is about to embark on six months of industrial experience with Jaguar Land Rover, McLaren, Peugeot, Skoda, Toyota and Honda as well as taking her £9,000 cash prize.
I am really pleased for her because the automotive industry needs the brightest talent to remain competitive, relevant, and customer-aware. And role models like Morven help to attract more of the (almost) 50% of the working population that the sector has notably failed to appeal to until now. The automotive industry needs people like her.
In 2009, as Managing Partner of Courland in the UK, I led the team which created the Autocar-Courland Next Generation Award in partnership with Autocar’s Steve Cropley, Jason Harris from Ferrari, PR specialist Karen Parry and marketer Al Clarke.We set out to establish a programme that would encourage the brightest and best students to make the motor industry their first-choice career.
In the intervening years since the inaugural winner Mohsin Basharmal took the very first prize, more than 40 of the hundreds of young people who entered the awards have started automotive careers through this competition. It is exciting and encouraging to know that their new ideas will challenge the status quo and take this amazing industry forwards.
It was in this spirit of innovation and collaboration that last year I brought together 80 executives in the industry for a Women in Automotive conference . We recognised then, as we do today, that the industry needs fresh ideas and new people with ‘millennials’ presenting both the greatest challenge and the greatest opportunities for the industry. In 2016 we’ll be sharing the results of our work in this area when our automotive working group meets in the spring.
Watch this space, and in the meantime, congratulations to Morven Fraser.