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8 Questions To...Matt Clay, group qualifications manager, Lookers

Matt Clay, group qualifications manager at AM100 top 10 motor retailer Lookers, outlines the talent opportunity that the "seismic shift" to electrified cars may offer.

What are the main responsibilities of your role?
I lead the apprenticeship strategy for Lookers. My main responsibilities include the management of apprentices, working closely with our training providers and brands to monitor their progress. I work to plan future apprenticeship requirements with our operations team, liaising with brand partners to ensure alignment with future industry developments.

I’m also a board member for a number of Government Advisory Groups, helping to shape the future of apprenticeship qualifications, along with being part of the industry Employer Apprenticeship Group, specifically tasked with developing motor industry apprenticeships. The Lookers Apprenticeship Programme has enrolled more than 750 apprentices following the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy in 2017. This growth encouraged the company to move into co-investment on our levy account, meaning we now fund apprenticeships at 5% cost, which is something for which we’re incredibly proud.

What are the most significant challenges ahead?
The rate the industry is evolving will present challenges across the spectrum. For apprenticeships, it will inevitably shape the way the programme looks. I’ll be working closely with the Industry Employer Group to ensure there is a greater emphasis on electric vehicle (EV) training, particularly for the service technician programme.

The influx of electric powertrains is massive for the industry, arguably it’s the most seismic shift following the original adoption of cars at the start of last century. To be involved in planning our apprenticeships strategy at this time is hugely exciting. I’m acutely aware we need to continue to ensure the programme is attractive for applicants, given many other sectors are advancing equally.

How might these challenges be overcome?
These are challenges we will all need to tackle head on. Being at the forefront of industry developments will ensure Lookers is well placed to adapt to change, and I’d encourage more widespread involvement across the sector in the Industry Employer Group to help shape future design.

The challenges are bigger than any individual business, therefore collaborative working will help ensure we all benefit from innovation. We’re in a fortunate position to be able to engage with manufacturers, which, combined with the foresight in terms of what technology will be coming online, means we have a great opportunity to proactively plan how industry developments can shape the apprenticeship programmes of the future. The industry has an opportunity to take advantage of the increased media attention as we shift towards EVs and, therefore, we should use this period of change to attract a broader base of talent, many of whom may now see our industry as more attractive than ever.

What attracted you to this area of expertise and how did you get to your current role?
I started at the time the Apprenticeship Levy was introduced, so it was a brilliant opportunity to shape the talent strategy for the business. Fortunately, Lookers has a great history of developing apprentices, so there was a strong desire to maximise the  opportunities presented by levy while creating a strong internal narrative focused on the return on investment.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned and how have you made use of it at your company?
Never stop learning. Whether through a formalised pathway such as an apprenticeship programme, or just working and learning on the job, I’ve always found having a curious outlook and being open to learning each and every day has benefits to both the business and me personally.

What drives you?
Knowing that the initiatives I’m working on bring real, tangible business benefits, while helping develop the careers of our apprentices.

What’s your favourite app?
Hole19, I couldn’t be without it on the golf course!

How do you relax?
I’ve recently become a dad, so haven’t found much time to relax recently.

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