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Training given boost as Automotive Skills and IMI join forces

A merger of Automotive Skills and the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) was confirmed this week, creating the most comprehensive employer-led training and skills powerhouse the UK’s motor industry has ever seen.

AM first reported on a likely merger in March. This week the deal received approval by the Sector Skills Development Agency, a quango responsible for funding and regulating all sector skills councils, and was ratified by Government.

The result is a body that will allocate state funds for automotive training, set and promote the skills agenda for motor retailers, and provide national recognition to employees and employers.

IMI chairman Steve Nash said the merger has 18 months to prove itself until the licences of all SSCs are due for renewal.

“Everybody in the industry has the same issue of there not being enough good people to go round. Together we need to do something about that,” he told AM.

“We have to interpret the Government’s skills agenda and put the money where it will get the best effect.”

Suggestions of a potential conflict of interest arising from having the sector skills council and a qualification awarding body under the same roof were refuted by Simon Perryman, SSDA director of performance. The two will operate as separate companies – IMI Awards and Automotive Skills – under the parent IMI Group of Companies. The merger has been supported by City & Guilds, the IMI’s main awarding body rival.

A new employer-led board will be formed from the two previous boards, with members including Marc Matthews, chairman of Lifestyle Europe, and Sue Brownson, managing director of Blue Bell Group. The board will be headed by chief executive Sarah Sillars and chaired by BMW UK aftersales director Steve Nash. Allan Tyrer remains company secretary.

“This is the formation of a new organisation dedicated to delivering skills and professional standards to the industry,” added Perryman.

“It’s a merger that’s going to enhance effectiveness. With Sarah as chief executive it shall be an extremely capable organisation.”

Sillars made an impact with the SSDA and the Government during her stint as acting head of Automotive Skills, after its last chief executive Patricia Richards left in unexplained circumstances. Sillars is not afraid of challenging decisions, has an extremely industry high profile, and can keep a tight reign on spending issues.

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