The Institute of the Motor Industry believes an online training forum launched in February to raise standards is already a success.
More than 3,000 tests have been successfully completed by some 1,500 technical national vocational qualification (NVQ) candidates registered with the IMI.
Stuart Brooks, IMI director of communications and business development, said: “Feedback has been extremely positive from all sectors of the industry. Candidates like the internet-based format which shows them the motor industry is serious about the need for qualifications.”
He said the IMI believed the newly-introduced formal test element added credibility and value to the NVQ in the eyes of employers.
“We would like to see the NVQ Level 3 become a benchmark standard for technicians,” said Mr Brooks.
The IMI is looking for ways to improve the quality of candidates aspiring to a technical career in the motor industry. One proposed approach is an online selection facility to assist the IMI's approved centres to find candidates who have a sufficient level of technical aptitude. Prospective new candidates could undertake a test over the internet, either at a centre or school, with no paperwork necessary, which would offer significant logistical advantages.
Some 220 colleges and training organisations are already accredited by the IMI to conduct the new tests. They form part of new Government-funded technical NVQs, leading to a nationally recognised certificate from the Institute. These relate to auto electricians, body fitters, repairers and refinishers, light and heavy vehicle technicians, motorcycle technicians, vehicle valeters and vehicle inspectors.
Peter Creasey, IMI chief executive, said: “With the quality of vehicles at an all-time high, the quality of service is under scrutiny by consumers. The Institute's radical new approach to training will go a long way to raising skill levels and we believe it will help both trainees and employers better understand the value of qualifications.”
The need for more training was one of five key recommendations in last year's report by the Office of Fair Trading, following its inquiry into car servicing and repair standards. The IMI believes its new approach will encourage employers, when recruiting technicians, to seek the NVQs as a national benchmark of competence, which will also indicate to consumers that employees are properly qualified.
Similarly, the IMI anticipates that the depth of knowledge necessary to complete the new tests successfully will require high-calibre trainees, capable of dealing with the complex technology and systems inherent in new vehicles.
The Institute spearheaded a major initiative at the 2000 Birmingham motor show, called Career Focus, designed to encourage high-achievers into the retail motor industry. Research indicates that there is a shortfall of some 5,000 apprentice technicians.
Call freephone 0808 100 2605 at Emap Automotive for a comprehensive brochure which lists training courses offered by the seven companies. Each member of the initiative is a specialist in a sector of the industry.