A recent work experience survey has revealed that 49% of employees are not working in their chosen career field they had decided upon as they left full time education.

In addition, 91% of those aged 55 and over, 69% of age group 35-54 years and 66% of the under 35s believe that it is now much harder for young people to enter the job market than it was when they joined.

“What is interesting to see within these results is that the older age group really feel it is much harder for younger people to join the job market now.  The general trend is that the older people tend to think the youngsters have never had it so easy, but this really highlights just how tough it is for young people to get their foot on the career ladder,”  commented Jim Holder, Autocar editor.

73% of survey respondents see the real importance of students being able to secure work experience during their study years.

The survey was conducted by the organisers of the Autocar-Courland Next Generation Award – a national automotive industry talent search competition.

The organisers of the Autocar-Courland Next Generation Award 2012 are reminding university students to enter the much coveted and premier automotive industry talent search competition. The 2012 winner will be rewarded with a priceless work experience package comprising one month at each of the contest sponsors – Jaguar Land Rover, McLaren Automotive, Peugeot, Skoda and Toyota – as well as £7500 cash.

“The tough economic climate is creating a challenging environment for young people looking to begin their careers, but the wave of investment coming into the UK automotive industry is generating real opportunities within car companies and the supply chain across the country,” said SMMT Chief Executive, Paul Everitt. “The UK motor industry is a great place to start your career and there are a wide range of opportunities for those with the drive, enthusiasm and dedication needed to succeed. Whether you are interested in engineering, design, manufacturing or sales and marketing the automotive industry will give you the best training and globally career development opportunities.”

The contest was launched in 2009 to offer entrants a unique chance to launch an automotive industry career and is run by Autocar in partnership with Courland International and the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. The 2012 award is backed by Jaguar Land Rover, McLaren Automotive, Peugeot, Skoda and Toyota.

To enter the competition, students need to answer in 500 words a brief set by Autocar editor-in-chief Steve Cropley and submit their entry via the Autocar-Courland Next Generation website by 31 August 2012.

The brief states: “In no more than 500 words, describe an improvement (be it an invention, innovation, a legislative change, a change to corporate policy or the adoption of a new convention) which you believe would be a worthwhile benefit to the UK automotive business. You will be expected to demonstrate an understanding of how such an improvement could be made viable and what the wider implications of it might be.”

Submissions will be welcomed from all disciplines, including – but not limited to – engineering, marketing and communications, design and media. Special credit will be given to the originality of entrants’ suggestions.

The six best entrants will attend a judging day at the home of Autocar, where they will have the chance to present their ideas to a panel of leading industry executives. Three finalists will be invited to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders’ annual dinner on 27 November, where the winner will be announced.

Autocar editor-in-chief Steve Cropley said: “This contest offers students a priceless opportunity to get a foot in the door of the most amazing and inspirational industry. In addition to the work experience and the cash prize, it offers a great opportunity to make contacts, network, see the industry at work first hand and maybe even secure a job offer.”

Oliver Brunt, the winner of the 2011 Next Generation Award, is currently in the midst of his work experience prize. He has already completed one month at McLaren and is shortly to start his month at Peugeot. Oliver is studying Industrial Design at Northumbria University.

Speaking of his experience at McLaren, Oliver said: “The month I spent at McLaren was one of the greatest experiences of my life. It may sound like an exaggeration, but I’ve seen and done things most people will never have the chance to do. It has been a huge privilege to be at the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking, let alone work there. In my time in the design studio I have learnt a lot about design itself in the real world, not just at university level. Working on live projects and keeping to briefs and deadlines, while trying to maintain an extremely high level of quality and brand identity throughout the work, was invaluable. I am looking forward to my future placements, but I will never forget my time at McLaren.”

Oliver Brunt’s winning idea combines a new kind of active head-up display, known as SHUD – Social Heads-Up Display – that uses sophisticated graphics and can employ the whole of a car’s screen as its ‘canvas’. The SHUD system conveys a new level of real-time car-to-car communication to provide drivers with a much better standard of information, presented more attractively and without distraction.