Automotive businesses are missing out on apprenticeships that could help fill the skills gap, says the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI).
Ahead of National Apprenticeship Week (February 6-12, 2023), the IMI is calling for businesses to ‘embrace apprenticeships’ and the benefits they bring.
Funding is available through the Government’s apprenticeship levy scheme, yet the latest data in the IMI’s Automotive Education Report suggests this is underutilised in the automotive sector.
On average, 65% of all apprenticeships in the UK are supported by levy funds, but just 52% of automotive apprenticeships received such support in 2022, leaving the sector in the bottom third of all UK sectors hiring apprentices.
Joanna Hollingdale, careers and student membership manager of the IMI, said: “Compared to other industries, automotive had the 6th largest year-on-year percentage increase in apprenticeship starts last year.
“However, levels have a long way to go before they reach pre-Covid levels, which were already falling.
"The need to act now is becoming more urgent by the day. We already do not have enough qualified professionals to meet the growing demand for technicians trained to work on the latest and most innovative vehicles – including electric, hybrid and ADAS-equipped.”
The IMI said starter figures appear more encouraging, with 43% more automotive apprenticeship starts in 2021/22 than in 2020/21. However, it is still 13% lower than pre-Covid levels in the 2019/20 academic year.
IMI chief executive Steve Nash has asserted that aftersales providers must maintain their training and apprenticeship provision as cars equipped with new road technology entre the market this year.
Utilising apprenticeship schemes can help garages, workshops and repair centres recruit new talent who will develop into skilled and competent professionals, the IMI said.
With support from the apprenticeship levy, employers with a total annual pay bill of less than £3m pay 5% of the cost of their apprenticeship training while the Government pays the rest.
Continuing the same pattern of the previous three years, 2021/22 saw Motor Vehicle Service and Maintenance Technician (Light Vehicle) the most popular pathway with 3,077 starts – a 50% increase from 2020/2021 and 41% from 2019/20. The largest increase since 2019/20 has been Vehicle Damage Mechanical, Electrical and Trim (MET) Technician which has tripled the number of starts.
In the third quarter of 2022, the largest proportion (37%) of automotive qualifications were at Level 2 (or equivalent), while the top qualification was the IMI Level 1 Diploma in Automotive Maintenance. 27% of automotive qualification certificates issued for the same period were for light-vehicle qualifications; the same proportion were for general maintenance (27%) followed by Electric/Hybrid (16%) and MOT (6%).
Difficulties in recruiting qualified and experienced technicians remains challenging for dealerships nationwide, says Fraser Brown, managing director of automotive consultancy MotorVise.
Hollingdale added: “There is a vast range of apprenticeship courses available, meaning apprentices can find the stream that interests and motivates them the most.
“It also means employers can attract the right talent to fill current or future skills gaps, and the levy scheme takes away much of the wage burden. It really is a win-win for apprentices, employers and the wider industry.”
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