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IMI launches Furlough Register to support apprentices

Steve Nash, IMI chief executive

The Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) is providing free learning resources to automotive sector apprentices to ensure they continue learning even when furloughed.

New data suggests there could be a skills challenge post-COVID-19 as more than half of apprentices in the industry have been furloughed and 83% say they are unable to continue study in the same way as before the lockdown.

Steve Nash, chief executive of the IMI, said: “There has been much already said about the impact of COVID-19 on our future generations and this has been brought into sharp focus by our on-going study of the sector.

“Not surprisingly – but disappointingly all the same – it seems that apprentices have been an obvious group to furlough in order to manage costs. And whilst this does offer some level of job security, for the time-being, what seems to have been missed is that furloughing doesn’t mean individuals can’t still study and access the support they need to continue their learning.

“This is a big concern for us in terms of whether the apprentices will actually return to the workplace at the end of the furlough period. And that is not only a risk for the sector as it needs to be well prepared and well-skilled for the next generation of automotive technology. It is also a huge waste of the investment already made by the apprentices, their training centres and employers.”

The IMI is running an on-going study of the automotive sector and how it is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, with its own clear focus on skills and supporting the next generation of workers, the IMI has researched the impact of the economic fallout on automotive retail apprentices.

Early results suggest that urgent action is needed to ensure that the after-effects of COVID-19 don’t undermine the upskilling required for the new automotive technologies coming down the line.

Only 17% of apprentices say they have been able to continue their studies with little or no change. By contrast, 39% of apprentices have outlined significant barriers for continuing with their studies, while 18% stated that they have been unable to engage with their employer at all.

Anecdotal feedback to the IMI study has found that some employers have been trying to continue to engage with their apprentices, even at minimum keeping them up to date with business matters. But this is not universal and there are a lot of reports of no contact or engagement at all.

Apprentices have also reported looking for their own ways to continue their studies, using their initiative to access sources of learning materials and teaching themselves. But the IMI believes a concerted effort is needed to ensure the current cohort of automotive apprentices don’t ‘fall down a gap’ at this challenging time.

“The goal with the IMI Furlough Register is to be able to easily identify the apprentices who need support – and provide them with a range of learning tools they can access for free as and when they need them”, added Nash.

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