In this article: Apprenticeships could help solve the motor industry’s massive skills gap. The Government backed scheme – the levy – that compels employers to stash cash away to pay for workplace training schemes, may not be perfect system, but it is the beginning of getting more apprenticeships into the industry.

And there are a myriad of reasons why apprenticeships remain the cornerstone of the sector, here are just five:

1. Pull off a digital transformation
The motor industry is bound for an electric future, with the internal combustion engine being phased out in many countries. That means today’s automotive technicians need vital digital skills such as computer programming to help the industry make the leap to electric cars.

Young people have such skills in abundance because they grew up with technology.

“There’s a wonderful symbiotic relationship between what’s happening in the sector and young people,” says Mark Currie, CEO of training provider Mantra Learning. “That’s the single biggest reason you would employ an apprentice.”

2. Attract and retain talent
Currie says that apprenticeships are also a way to ensure staff loyalty. “Learners are showing a level of commitment to a fairly long programme, and have made a very informed decision not to go to university,” he says.

This means that they are likely to be highly engaged at work and therefore productive. On an apprenticeship, learners acquire skills that benefit them and the business, and many programmes include degree level qualifications, fees paid. This can engender loyalty, helping the motor industry to hire and hold the talent it sorely needs.

3. Future proof your workforce
Frank Harvey, at the Independent Garage Association, says: “Investing in an apprentice will help future proof a business by enabling it to grow its workforce from within.”
He says apprentices can be developed to suit the needs of a business, since the training programmes are based on standards that are drawn up by groups of employers. Standards set out the skills, knowledge and behaviours that apprentices obtain.

“As a trade association, the biggest problem we hear of from our members is the difficulty in finding skilled, competent technicians to enable them to grow their businesses,” says Harvey.

4. Pass on knowledge to the next generation
He adds that the new apprenticeship standards and the funding roles have made it more affordable to recruit mature apprentices, in addition to fresh blood. “These apprentices can bring with them greater life skills and this too can enhance the business they work for,” Harvey says.

Although the motor industry is in need of fresh faces, recruiting mature workers could be a smart move: they can pass on knowledge to young people that may otherwise be lost, says Harvey.

5. Return on investment
The apprenticeship levy makes large employers put aside vast sums of money, but they do not have to spend it. However, unspent money is lost after 24 months – and much of the money that the motor industry has paid into the levy has not yet been spent.

Many employers are put off apprenticeships for fear of incurring further costs: for example, apprentices have to spend at least 20% of their time training off the job.
But the IMI’s new return on investment calculator shows that a ROI of between 175% and 200% can be achieved within the apprentices’ training period.

Seb Murray

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