The RMI's most recent survey of pay and conditions in motor retailing reveals we face a crisis in recruitment and retention of staff across all sectors of the industry. It is affecting our ability to deliver high standards, maintain our competitiveness and cope with the pace of change in this dynamic business.
The survey could not have come at a more appropriate time. In the next few weeks the Sector Skills Development Agency (the government-appointed regulatory body) will decide whether plans for a Sector Skills Council for the industry can go forward to the development stage.
This is a crucial decision for the future of our businesses and one which everybody in the retail motor industry – car manufacturers, dealers, trade associations, motoring organisations, repairers and independent garages – has a stake.
If the bid is successful, the Automotive Skills Council (as it is being called) will give responsibility to employers in the industry to provide leadership for strategic and targeted action to meet the sector's skills, workforce development and business needs. In return, through the ASC – which will take over from the Motor Industry Training Council – the industry will receive substantial public investment and greater dialogue with government.
Employers and other stakeholders are working together to solve the technician shortage. But we also need good managers. The enthusiastic agreement of the Retail Forum – comprising leading motor manufacturers and retailers – to add its management skills programme to complement MITC's technical expertise demonstrates we are speaking with a common voice.
The case for a specific Sector Skills Council for the automotive retail industry is overwhelming. We play a significant economic and strategic role in the business and social fabric of the country. The retail motor industry has an annual turnover of £130bn and directly employs 566,000 people, with a further 100,000 employed in related sectors. We have very specific sector skills needs – quite different from manufacturing, transport or high street retailing. This view was supported by the Automotive Initiative and Growth Team report, commissioned by the DTI and presented to the Prime Minister earlier this year.
I would urge everybody who cares about this industry to understand and support the case for the Automotive Skills Council. We need a more skilled, more efficient and more fulfilled workforce. The ASC can help provide it.