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Funding uncertainties jeopardise skills gap solution

Dean Lander, Thatcham Research head of operations

Uncertainty over access to funding could jeopardise government targets of delivering three million new apprentices to address an automotive industry skills gap, according to Thatcham Research.

A recent report by the Automotive Council skills shortages in the industry could see up to 5,000 jobs left vacant while a separate report from Engineering UK concluded that the UK does not have the capacity or rate of growth required to meet demand for skilled engineers and technicians.

Thatcham Research head of operations, Dean Lander, said: “Apprentice graduates form the backbone of the UK automotive industry and, more specifically, the crash repair sector.

“It’s imperative that training providers like ourselves are given the financial flexibility to support this automotive success story.”

A Thatcham spokesman said that it was better positioned than most to understand the challenges brought about by new technology, being “an automotive academy backed by a fully operational vehicle research centre”.

Thatcham’s academy has adopted a flexible apprenticeship model that can react to industry trends and technological advancement to produce a graduate that understands the latest technologies, materials and repair techniques, he said.

But Lander added: “We know that the skills and new talent are certainly out there and we know that advances in technology will continue to generate inspirational opportunities in the industry.

“What’s more of a concern is that delays on funding decisions could be stifling potential growth.”

Thatcham said that many training providers had to decide on whether to take on additional new apprentice starts with no guarantee that additional funding will be forthcoming further down the line under the new funding framework provided by the SFA (Skills Funding Agency).

Lander said: “Overall, the government’s plans aimed at increasing participation in apprenticeships and making them more relevant to employers should be applauded.

“Giving those involved in the industry the opportunity to structure the learning framework makes fundamental sense.

“However, all the good intentions could count for little if cash flow and funding concerns prevents training providers and employers from taking on the required number of new learners.”

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