The Italian components industry in EV transition: skills demand, training and unions’ role

Publication Type:

Conference Paper

Source:

Gerpisa colloquium, Bordeaux (2024)

Abstract:

Despite positive trends in terms of foreign trade balance and employment impact (200 thousand workers) for several years the Italian automotive components industry has been affected by the overall downsizing of production carried out by the only OEM operating at national level. The sector is facing a significant challenge in relation to transition to electrically powered vehicles.
Italy represents a particular case due to the presence of a single big manufacturer (Stellantis), beyond the small presence of VW (which owns the Lamborghini plant) and a few other companies specialized in the production of luxury cars (Ferrari being the most important case). The monopolistic position of Stellantis has severely undermined the amount of labour and production within the sector (from 2 million of vehicles in 1999 to 500 thousand in recent years).
In this context, the components industry has maintained a significant importance in terms of production and employment despite the high dependency on Stellantis orders. However, for Italian suppliers, the transition to electric vehicles involves several uncertainties due to the reorganization of production and investments by Stellantis and their ability to remain competitive in a context of strong international competition between suppliers based in Asia, Eastern Europe and North Africa. In this context, product innovations and investments in workforce training (upskilling and reskilling) are a key condition for the resilience of the supply chain and for preventing job destruction.
The contribution aims to give an account of the first results of a research on the topic of skills development in the sector from the PRIN project 'Labour in transition: job-skills development and firm innovation competence" involving the Universities of Padua, Salerno and Venice.
In terms of the research methods applied, our study relies on qualitative analysis of archival documentation, secondary literature and semi-structured interviews within 10 supply firms based in Italy and Poland. The research aims to answer the following questions: how do Italian trade unions face the transition to EV in the supply firms? which strategies do they adopt to face job destruction? how can demands for “workforce training” can be a strategy to increase union unity and union power within supply firms?

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