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Have your say on new industry qualifications

The Institute of the Motor Industry is attacking the general industry apathy, indifference and ignorance over Automotive Skills by asking companies what they want to see from industry qualifications.

It has already set up 25 focus groups with some 150 employers from across the motor industry and has released a survey giving people an opportunity to have their say (go to the story on am-online to have yours). The IMI wants a Sector Qualifications Strategy based on employers’ needs.

According to IMI chief executive Sarah Sillars: “We have an opportunity to re-write all of the sector skills qualifications – it’s the only real window we have to make that radical change.

“All the sub-sectors have a chance to look at what’s fit and right for their sector but we have to get away from the ‘nobody asked me’ view.”

Everything is up for debate, from NVQs to apprenticeships. The IMI hopes to start assimilating views from across the motor industry next week so it can draft the headline reviews in December.

It wants to be in a detailed planning stage from next February. Any changes to qualifications have to be implemented before the end of 2009.

“The message is simple: if you want us to rattle the drums about something then talk to us. We will not have this degree of chance to get heard again,” said Sillars.

#AM_ART_SPLIT# One suggestion is to change from having one vocational standard but six qualifications from different awarding bodies to having one set of vocational standards and one qualification. Although the qualifications are the same, confusion arises because they have different awarding bodies.

Employers would be able to choose which organisation they wished to work with – City & Guilds, IMI, etc – based on service and responsiveness, but the qual-ification would look the same.

Sillars concedes that Automotive Skills needs to raise its profile in the independent repair sector, bodyshops, parts motorcycles, heavy vehicles and rental/leasing.

She wants a closer relationship with trade associations and recently got six of them together to go through her plans.

The IMI is also running an awarding body forum – the first one was this month – to take advantage of each body’s relationships with small employers. It will use its own direct relationships with small businesses in addition to the 25 focus groups.

“The sector skills council is not engaged enough with independent bodies. But we have goodwill and an expectation that we will deliver something more tangible,” Sillars said.

“We will be judged by our results. That is why we have a clear business plan with the five big wins – we have to talk the language of the sector, not that of the regulators, stakeholders and funders. That’s what we are immediately bringing to the party.

“While I wouldn’t want to pre-empt the results of the surveys, I do expect a call for change from the industry,” Sillars added.

“We envisage a request for more support on up-skilling, not at the basic level. Some employers are also concerned about just how well qualified people are after completing an NVQ.”

Sillars is also asking the Government to reassess its rules on Train To Gain to make it more relevant to the car retail and repair sector.

“We want to get amendments to the finding to give employers help at higher levels,” she said. “I am quietly confident that we will get a sectorial approach on Train To Gain.”

The five big wins

  • 14 to 19-year-old training
  • Adult learning (including women in work)
  • Building the career path
  • Skills for management and leadership
  • Developing employer-led qualifications
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