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Independents back move for professionalism in the industry

The increasing presence of a more professional independent sector will help raise the perception of automotive retail as a whole, according to the Independent Garage Association (IGA).

IGA director Stuart James will take to the stage at the AM and IMI People Conference which takes place in central London on June 12 and will demonstrate how the Independent Garage Association, which has over 3,400 members, has launched several initiatives, including the voluntary code of conduct ‘Trust my Garage’, aimed at demonstrating their professionalism to consumers.

At the conference, which takes place at the Royal Garden Hotel, Kensington, prior to the prestigious AM100 Dinner, James will provide the view of the independents and will show how the organisation’s investment in training and development is helping to raise the image of the garage owner and the reputation of automotive retail and repair sector.

James said: “The big ‘ticket’ items for the independent sector are undoubtedly training, particularly technical development, access to manufacturer’s technical information and legislation, especially legal and health & safety regulations. The sector is a sleeping giant which is now awakening and adding its voice to the development of automotive retail, by so doing, we are adding gravitas to the movement to further professionalise the industry.

“One of the misconceptions is that the independent sector is reluctant to invest in training but the IGA is proving this to be unfounded. For example, the IGA launched its hybrid safety awareness training scheme 18-months ago and we have trained more than 3,000 mechanics from 1,500 businesses. We envisage our forthcoming diagnostic training course to attract up to 3,000 businesses, eager for their staff to receive the latest training to deliver higher standards of workmanship to consumers.”

A large proportion of its members, who took part in an IGA survey, also employ an apprentice (38%) reflecting the sector’s commitment to developing young talent and 56% said they would take on an apprentice if there was more support from the organisation particularly in negotiating the legislative process and helping to recruit the right person for the job.

He added: “Anecdotal evidence from our members suggests school leavers are receiving limited and even inaccurate information about apprenticeships in the independent sector and that is something we as an organisation need to tackle if we are going to help our members recruit high calibre school leavers for apprenticeship positions.”

The IGA is also working with its members to find a solution to the problem of a dwindling market of MoT testers, perpetuated by the requirement for mechanics to hold level 3 NVQ for a test centre to meet minimum standards.

James said: “Our members understand the importance of training and the vital role it plays in the future of their business but the majority of the businesses we represent employ a handful of staff so releasing one person for even a day’s training has a massive impact.

"As such the IGA has worked hard to create a model which sees the trainer delivering courses on site. This has been hugely successful and has created a huge appetite for training among our members.”

Tickets are available to dealers, manufacturers and automotive businesses, with a limited number of supplier tickets on sale. To book, please contact Emma-Louise Kinnaird on 01733 395133, email or visit

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