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IMI Diversity Taskforce to help automotive 'nurture a more diverse workforce'

Professor Jim Saker

The Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) has launched a Diversity Task Force as part of a drive to tackle diversity in automotive through a year-long project.

AM Magazine columnist Professor Jim Saker, the newly-appointed president of the IMI, is to lead the new Taskforce to investigate, research and provide recommendations on how to improve the ‘effectiveness’ of automotive businesses by becoming a ‘more attractive employment opportunity’.

The Taskforce will have a focus on attracting the BAME community to the sector, helping the automotive sector become a workplace that embraces and encourages individuals facing physical and neuro disabilities and addressing gender diversity, said the IMI.

The IMI said whilst COVID-19 has had short-term, immediate impact on job opportunities across the sector, it believes it could be masking a longer-term problem.

In a Q&A session at AM Live Virtual, Automotive 30% Club founder, Julia Muir, recently said that women in car retail were losing out disproportionately during the COVID-19 pandemic as they step back from their careers amid the pressures of home schooling and stereotypical household responsibilities.

Last week, in an exclusive opinion post for AM, Muir said that women needed to be freed from fear of 'exclusion, intimidation or attack' to thrive in automotive.

IMI chief executive Steve Nash said that change is needed to ensure the sector becomes more diverse. He said: “The automotive sector has a huge challenge facing it as we emerge from COVID-19, namely the job of ensuring it is future proofed for the emerging automotive technologies. And the IMI has a deep concern that the sector’s current approach to recruitment and professional development – essentially always reverting to the same small talent pool - could severely undermine that goal.”

Saker said the aim of the Taskforce is to identify how to become a sector that will “appeal to and nurture a more diverse workforce”, as there is “plenty of evidence to prove that a diverse workplace delivers a better customer experience which, in turn, delivers improved profitability”.

Saker said: “Before COVID-19, the automotive industry already faced a skills crisis. The pandemic has just served to accelerate that issue – automotive apprenticeships supported by ASA funding has fallen 56% in the last year and this is a serious cause for concern.

“But the issue goes much wider than just how to get automotive employers to recruit apprentices. The sector is not currently diverse and is therefore recruiting from an ever-dwindling pool of talent. That must change if we’re going to be fit for purpose for the new, fast-evolving technological revolution, from connected and autonomous to electric, hydrogen and other clean fuel sources.”

National Grid fleet manager Lorna McAtear received the 2021 Barbara Cox Woman of the Year Award at an event to mark International Women’s Day last week.

Nominations are also for Autocar’s Great Women: Rising Stars initiative as the event prepares to celebrate the automotive sector's top female employees.

The IMI's year-long diversity project will launch in April with a call for individuals from within and outside the sector to contribute. Anyone interest in getting involved should email: ceooffice@theimi.org.uk

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