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AM People Skills Conference: Skills for tomorrow

Motor retailers need to be addressing the issues of skills and high quality leadership in order to prepare their business for the future.

Delegates at the AM People Skills Conference sponsored by the Institute of the Motor Industry on September 17 heard about the latest initiatives and developments that will boost skills and productivity.
 

Speakers

John FogartyJohn Fogerty, PAR Training

“Setting clear standards gets most of us to do a better job when we understand exactly what we need to do.”


Allan TyrerAllan Tyrer, Institute of the Motor Industry

“As a sector, we have not got our fair share of government funding to support training.”



Stephen GardnerStephen Gardner, Learning & Skills Council

“There are only 10% of employers in this industry engaged in apprenticeships.”



Jim SakerJim Saker, Loughborough University

“The inspirational leaders are those who trust their staff. They trust them because they develop them and their skills.”


Steve ScofieldSteve Scofield, Institute of the Motor Industry

“Training gives us knowledge. Qualifications confirm that knowledge, and accreditation furthers that knowledge.”
 


A changing landscape

A changing landscape Professor Jim Saker, director of the centre for automotive excellence at Loughborough University, urges dealer managers to consider whether they have a vision for skills.

Some of the failings are at strategic management level, says Saker. Poor controls and lack of leadership have left the UK with a productivity gap compared to mainland Europe, and this needs to be addressed, he says. 

Motor retail needs to get away from its focus on each month end. In order to meet future challenges, it needs to be led by people who have a clear vision of where they want their business to be three to five years on, and who can articulate that to their teams and motivate them.

Those who don’t will risk leaving staff to self-prioritise on the easy work, and avoid taking the tougher tasks in hand. 

The industry needs leaders who are committed to developing their people, to provide them with the skills which will help them identify and overcome the challenges of a changing marketplace.

These will provide career paths and recognised qualifications that reward their progress, and inspire staff to work harder and better.

“The inspirational leaders are those who trust their staff. They trust them because they develop them and their skills,” Saker adds.

Building blocks for the future

Steve Scofield, head of skills development at the Institute of the Motor Industry, says the IMI is working with the automotive industry to establish the building blocks that will create clear career paths for workers.

It wants to help employers make their staff feel more valued and put in place quality training that will stretch workers and create the managers of the future.

An Automotive Manager Accreditation (AMA) programme is planned for March. Like the Automotive Technician Accreditation (ATA) scheme, it will provide industry-wide recognition of the skills and competence of those managers who attain it.

Qualifications are also being developed for 2009, in line with the National Occupational Standards. Saker points out that the IMI must ensure that the qualifications reflect the industry’s job roles.

These schemes could succeed on the power of exclusion, like the industry has seen with ATA. Those dealers who train and accredit their workforce can improve their profile and perception.

For tickets or more information call 01733 468 325 or email luke.clements@bauermedia.co.uk or visit www.ampeopleskillsconference.com.



Managing training time

Employers have asked for bite-sized qualifications that will add up to a greater whole. More than 80% of the businesses in the industry are SMEs (small or medium enterprises), so allowing downtime in the business for training can be an issue.

“A company is only as good as the people it keeps,” says Scofield. 

“Training gives us knowledge. Qualifications confirm that knowledge, and accreditation furthers that knowledge.”

One obstacle in England and Wales is the NVQ, because it is a broken model in the automotive sector, says Stirling Wood, IMI project manager for qualifications, research and strategy.

It has lost the confidence of employers, and any replacement must be developed with the industry and be one which they will value.

Funding for training

The government is putting £800 million a year into apprenticeships. While the automotive sector takes a large chunk of that, it should be larger still, says Stephen Gardner, director of apprenticeships at the Learning & Skills Council.

Measures are being taken to encourage employers to access the funding available. The bureaucracy involved has been reduced substantially. 

However, the LSC’s national apprenticeships service wants to help employers launch new programmes which will meet their exact needs. The LSC has made great gains in recent years in driving up the percentage of apprentices who successfully complete their training.

As Gardner points out: “There are only 10% of employers in this industry engaged in apprenticeships.”

Mentor roles

LSC wants to encourage the best employers to develop people for other businesses through a pilot scheme of funding more apprentices than they need for their own business.

And a small scale programme, aimed at encouraging SMEs to set up their own apprentice programme, will trial the subsidising of wages, currently paid by employers.

“As a sector we’ve not got our fair share of government funding to support training,” says Allan Tyrer, finance director of the IMI.

Eligibility has been extended, meaning apprenticeships are no longer confined to under-25s, and the Apprenticeships Bill has given trainees a clear status as employees, which makes the programmes more attractive to candidates.
Non-apprenticeship training

Outside apprenticeships, more training has been mapped to occupational standards, where some funding is available. The industry is getting over the hurdles and has knocked a hole in the brick wall which stopped it from obtaining funding a few years ago.

The IMI has secured funding through initiatives such as Train To Gain, through which around £1,600 per candidate is available, and Women And Work, which it can allocate for qualifying training in the south east, south west and east of England.

Around £800 is available for each female who requires training. “In our sector, women are under-represented. It’s hard to get them up on the career ladder,” says Tyrer.

John Fogerty, managing director of PAR Training, recently worked with Surrey-based dealer group Wilsons to implement a sales training programme supported by Train To Gain funding. 

Six month development

By forging a relationship with the IMI and the Business Enterprise Unit, PAR Training was able to design a six-month development programme for Wilsons’ sales staff that took advantage of Train To Gain, Women For Work and mainstream funding.

“It meant that we could train not just certain people in the organisation, but the whole sales team,” says Fogerty. “Train To Gain considerably subsidised the investment.”

The benefits were a more effective, motivated sales team with nationally-recognised skills and raised standards of work.

“It gave people something to go for. Setting clear standards gets most of us to do a better job when we understand exactly what we need to do,” he adds.

PAR Training was able to clearly track the benefits driven back to Wilsons – including a 5% increase in enquiries for test drives and a 5% rise in converting test drives to sales.

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