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Training: Create your own qualified, loyal staff

Stephen Gardner, director of apprenticeships at the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), urges employers to recognize the importance of apprenticeships.

The automotive industry has a lot to offer the UK economy; 237,000 people are employed in the design and manufacture of vehicles and components, with the automotive manufacturing sector contributing around £8.4bn to the economy. 

It accounts for 1.1% of GDP, 5.8% of manufacturing value-added and 9.5% of total UK exports of goods. An additional 560,000 people work in the retail/repair/bodyshop sectors. But skills shortages are a vital issue and young people need to be attracted to the industry.

Improving staff training has become an increasingly hot topic, with new figures revealing that employers have spent £33bn on staff training and development in the last 12 months alone.

The National Employer Skills Survey examined 74,500 employers, and found that the portion of businesses with skills gaps has fallen by 6% (22% to 16% between 2003 and 2005).

This is good news for British business, as investing in skills, training and development will help increase productivity and secure competitive advantage.

However, new research suggests that poor productivity costs UK employers £70bn in 2005 – equivalent to 36 days per worker, per year.

Apprenticeships have a vital part to play in boosting the nation’s productivity, as there is no better system for matching skills to business than through extending and encouraging this on-the-job learning.

For the automotive sector, the West Midlands remains the heart of the industry in the UK with around 30% of the industry based in this region.

The UK is home to the world’s most successful motorsport industry as well as a range of smaller producers serving specialist markets such as sportscars, luxury cars and London taxis. Seventeen of the top tier one suppliers and around 20 leading independent automotive design firms also have a base here.

Bentley, BMW, Nissan and Honda are just a few of the automotive employers that speak highly of their apprenticeship programmes. Honda currently employs 320 apprentices and has trained more than 500 in the last three years.

Steve Price, programme manager for the Honda Apprenticeship Programme says: “The programme provides the Honda dealer network with a steady supply of highly trained, well qualified and loyal employees.

“A recent survey showed that 88% of Honda apprentices remain within the Honda dealer network, while 92% continue to work within the automotive industry, demonstrating the real business value of training apprentices.

“The Honda Apprenticeship Programme teaches much more than just technical skills, nurturing a strong brand loyalty to Honda and the ability to deliver real added value to the Honda dealer network through fresh ideas and forward thinking.”

Apprenticeships answer the needs of employers and young people, with their mixture of on- and off-the job learning, and the opportunity to improve business through the tailored, relevant training of highly motivated young people. There are currently 270,000 young people aged 16-24 on an apprenticeship in England alone – a record number.

Support for apprenticeships is coming from all quarters, including Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond, a presenter at the 2006 Apprenticeship Awards.

“Apprenticeships are one of those happy circumstances where everybody wins,” he says.

“On the one hand you’ve got apprentices who are getting their career off to the best possible start and on the other hand you’ve got employers who’ve put in that bit of extra effort; and out of it they get these great employees who are motivated, driven, hard-working and very loyal.”

  • This is an extract from an article in the December 15 issue of AM. To subscribe click here.
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