Automotive has long suffered from a skills shortage, but internships could be a useful tool to help businesses find the talent they need

Without a doubt, the automotive industry needs a strong pipeline of talent to sustain the sector in the long term. As such, creating opportunities for the younger generation is vital, and while apprenticeships have long been a viable option, automotive businesses need to explore other avenues too. Every year, it’s reported that around 10,000 newly qualified automotive students end up in other industries because they’ve struggled to secure a position within the motor sector. It’s a loss the industry simply can’t afford. Of course, some college-leavpsers may well lack the practical experience needed to hit the ground running, and this can be a deterrent to time-poor automotive business managers. But there are also other issues at play, such as the red tape which larger firms can sometimes find themselves wrapped up in when taking on an intern. Even so, these newly qualified students are low-hanging fruit ripe for the picking, and it’s imperative that we find a way to carve out opportunities for them. Internships are certainly one way forward and should be explored. Let’s start by clearing up some misconceptions…

It’s not an apprenticeship

Internships do not replace apprenticeships but complement them. With apprenticeships, garages take on a young person with no qualifications, who will need a day release each week to attend college. An intern, on the other hand, will be over 18 and may already hold a Level 3 qualification – plus, they’ll be a full-time employee.

As a rule, a garage can expect to have an apprentice for a longer period of time (up to three years), and while there will be an element of learning on the job, they will spend a large part of their time in college. An intern, though, is more of a short-term solution, as they may end up becoming proficient in all areas of the job in less than 12 months.

Internships can be a “try before you buy” solution

Taking on an intern is a great way to test someone out. While they will be paid for their time, it’s effectively a trial period over several months, in which time the intern’s ability, skills and work ethic can be evaluated before any decision is made about employing them on a permanent basis.

If the internship is managed successfully, a garage or dealer group manager could find themselves with a fully qualified, brand-loyal, trained vehicle technician within a matter of months.

Interns can provide additional resource in busy times…

While they may lack experience, an intern will hold the most up-to-date theoretical knowledge, and these newly qualified technicians can be an ideal way to address any short-term resource issues your business may be facing.

While the level of mentoring required will vary from intern to intern, the majority will soon be able to work independently and will then serve as an additional pair of hands to help your business handle its workload.

… as well as fresh ideas

It is vitally important for the older generation within the industry to encourage younger people. Indeed, they are the future, and they’re also the ones who will sustain the sector long after most of today’s existing automotive workforce has retired.

Crucially, newly qualified technicians can bring fresh ideas to the table and already have their finger on the pulse of the latest technology. We’re certainly not working within a stagnant industry, and given the rapid pace of change, having young employees with technical capabilities will ultimately benefit your business.

So, to safeguard the future of the automotive industry, we have to act, and this means widening the net to attract and retain a new generation of talent. Internships may well be a valuable way to do this.

Simon King FIMI is Group Managing Director of Autotech

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