London – The rubber industry is among the target sectors for an EU-backed project to increase the skills-base of the European automotive industry as it transitions to connected and automated mobility technologies.
Project DRIVES (Development and Research on Innovative Vocational Education Skills) brings together 24 European partners, from 11 EU countries to address the challenges linked to digitalisation and the education of the workforce.
Set to run from 2018 to 2021, the €4-million funded project further aims to tackle skills shortages due to the ageing workforce and the lack of attractiveness of the existing job roles to younger people.
The European Commission estimates that, by 2025, it will be necessary to fill more than 900.000 jobs in the automotive sector, about half of which will require high-level qualifications.
The DRIVES initiative aims to enable EU industry to meet these requirements, Fabian Grunert of the University of Twente explained in a presentation at the IoM3-organised International Rubber Conference (IRC) 2019, held 2-5 Sept in London.
Highlighting the importance of elastomer technology, Grunert presented AT Kearney figures showing how the amount rubber as a percentage of vehicle weight had grown steadily over the past few decades – from around 2% in 1980 to around 7% today.
Grunert went on to list the need to improve rolling resistance performance of tires among the driving forces for future innovation in the automotive industry.
As part of its remit, DRIVES is targeting the development and implementation of 30 new job roles which, it has determined. will be needed by the automotive industry of the future.
As part of this, the project partners aim to requalify people in industry to sustain their value for the company and remain employed. This, in turn, will require new qualifications for future job roles.
Companies, said Grunert, will be able to use the DRIVES framework to search for the required skills and training – at either technician or academic level – backed by EU DRIVES certification.
Among the new job roles being developed are ‘rubber technologist’ and ‘silica/silane specialist’.
With regard to the ‘silica-silane specialist’, the presenter mapped out an extensive skills-set, covering production, materials characterisation, reactive mixing and reinforcement, as well as applications in green tires, truck tires, off-road tire and seals.
The ‘rubber technologist’ role, meanwhile, encompasses: creation of rubber formulations; rubber compound processes; compound ingredients; and the ability to adjust rubber compounds to meet the changing needs of the automotive industry.
The DRIVES ‘rubber technologist’ programme is scheduled to available in early 2020 at both technician and academic level, according to Grunert.
The initiative, he said, is being introduced in cooperation with the ETRMA, Consorcio (Spanish Rubber Association), IFOCA (French Rubber Organisation) and “possibly” the DIK (German Rubber Institute).