Career in motor industry given fresh boost by new tech says IMI

Published:  22 May, 2018

The future is bright for the automotive sector thanks to emerging technologies  according to The Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI).

Presenting at the London Motor Show on 17 May, IMI Chief Executive Steve Nash said that new technology in the motor industry is paving the way for young people: “The fresh appetite for innovative technology in the automotive industry has meant businesses are experiencing a demand for newly skilled employees. The industry needs to build new learning environments and training programmes across all levels, which can allow technicians to expand their skills, as well as attract new young people into these roles.“

According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) an additional 320,000 jobs are being  created  in the sector between between 2014 and 2030.

“Employment in the motoring sector has seen an increase of 11.9% in the last year,“ continued Steve. 

“This highlights how the industry is providing a positive landscape for people searching for a new career. We’re embracing the technology enhancements and the opportunities it creates.

Steve added: “With 67% of young people saying they would prefer to sidestep university in favour of earning money, and 48% choosing to avoid student debt by opting for other choices such as an apprenticeship, the IMI is calling on businesses to take advantage of this by raising the awareness of the career opportunities available to young people.“  

Related Articles

  • Head for the Brexit 

    We've been talking about Brexit for a while now. At least once in every issue there will be a story about the process of leaving the European Union, and the potential impact on the automotive sector.  
        
    While progress is hard to gauge, with every issue there is some new angle. It's difficult to keep up, so that handy phrase "as we went to press" gets used a lot. Using it yet again, as we went to press for the October issue, a deal with the EU seemed more likely. Reports were surfacing of Germany and the UK dropping certain demands that would enable an agreement. A positive development then.
        
    Have we been giving a balanced view through the process though, and are we asking the right people what they think? Maybe, and maybe not.

    Positive aspects
    David Dawson, co-owner at Preston's Car Doctor contacted Aftermarket to express frustration regarding the coverage of Brexit in the magazine. He had this to say:  
        
    "You’re becoming as biased as the BBC. this is Project Fear all over again. Try balancing your reporting with some positive aspects and opportunities that Brexit may provide us with. BAE Systems has won a £20bn contract to build frigates that will form the backbone of the Australian navy, beating off rival proposals from Italian and Spanish groups for the biggest naval defense deal of the past decade.
        
    "I know it’s not automotive news but there will be many opportunities like this for the automotive industry outside of the EU post Brexit. The Germans French and Italians will still want to sell cars to the UK. It just annoys me that the media constantly go on about how bad it will be when we leave the single market. There will be many opportunities and upsides out of the EU even on WTO tariffs."
        
    David added: "I read Aftermarket magazine, both online and the printed version and have done for many years. However in recent times many of your articles paint a dim picture for the industry outside the EU would be nice to read something positive for
    a change."
        
    Now, as a publication we stand by our reporting, and will cover positive and negative views on key issues as they arise. We do listen to our readers though, and David's argument did make us think. It also raised another issue – one of representation.
        
    Having heard from David in the north of England, we thought we might take views from other businesses around the UK, to see what they think the impact of Brexit will be on their business.

    Access
    Turning our attentions south, we asked Kevin Pearce from 2018 Top Garage winners Cedar Garage in Worthing his views on whether Brexit will have a positive or negative impact on the aftermarket. "I think it could go either way," mused Kevin. "I don't see any positives it can necessarily bring. On the negative side, I think we could struggle to get hold of technical data and manufacturer-specific information." According to Kevin, UK consumer buying choices have built up a car parc that could swing things 'our' way: "Considering the number of vehicles we actually import, especially the German stuff, we should actually be in a very strong position to dictate terms. If they want to continue to sell cars to us, whoever is negotiating for the UK should be able to dictate terms on that. Going forward, in terms of telematics we need to make sure the aftermarket stays on the right side of the manufacturers to make sure we continue to get access."
        
    Cedar Garage recently opened a German marques-only outlet, so we wondered if he thought Brexit might have a specific impact on the business's ongoing endeavours: "If it does, not for a long time," replied Kevin. "I think generally it will all come down to how well the negotiations go. We have good access to all the data we need for the German brands. So long as Brexit does not get in the way of that, I can't see how it could cause a problem.
        
    "Obviously a lot of the parts that we buy come from Europe. Hopefully the prices won't increase too much. At the end of the day, we import so much, that if these people then do not want to sell to us, they are surely going to be the ones that lose out."
        
    We went onto ask if Cedar Garage's customers had displayed any noticeable Brexit jitters: "So far it does not look like that at all. We have not seen anything like that. All of our customers are carrying on as normal. If any of them say, ‘I can't afford this or that’ I don't think it affects our trade that much. Maybe if it was car sales, but definitely not in terms of the repair market."
        
    While garages on the south coast might be closer to the continent than most of the other businesses in the market, it's not like Cedar Garage customers are likely to head over the channel to France for their car servicing is it? Shaking his head, Kevin replied: "Of course not." As far as Kevin was concerned, the market is changing and this should mean the supposed consumer confidence hit that might result from Brexit could be over-stated: "What we are finding is that people are looking more and more for a professional service, and are prepared to pay for that. People are becoming more conscious of what goes into a car and are prepared to pay. They would rather pay a professional to pay to repair their car, rather than someone they met down the pub who does it in the car park."

    Uncertainty
    How you feel about the relative opportunities and threats of Brexit can largely depend on where you are sitting. For businesses in Northern Ireland however, Brexit has its own special issues. Starting with the more general concerns,  Colm Higgins from CH Autoservices  in Magherafelt, Northern Ireland said: "I think the biggest issue for most garages, with the position we are in, particularly the go-ahead guys who are into diagnostics, is access to data. This is the issue we would want to address first and foremost. We rely on the access to manufacturer data that is assured through European regulations like Euro 5, so obviously we are concerned. With Brexit nobody really knows what is going to happen.
        
    "Some of the manufacturers, like Mercedes-Benz, had a very good scheme where you could lease a diagnostic tool, but they removed that recently, and I think it is tied to Brexit.
        
    "Obviously the price of parts and access to parts, is something to be concerned about as well. MOTs too, as well as emissions. Are we going to establish our own standards? Are we going to be governed by European rules? Or are they going to be similar to the European rules? Is it a chance for the UK to make its own emissions standards. If so will they be similar, or less?  
        
    Colm continued: "Also, what affect will it have on the car parc? What cars will we be working on? Are we going to see a change in consumer activity as well? What the good guys seem to do is look at what people are buying and how the market is going and see the trends. Obviously electric vehicles is something we have invested in here. Is that going to be impacted by that? Is it going to be more or less. It is important to get an idea of where things are going to go. The biggest problem is that nobody knows.
        
    "Almost everybody has a German or French car in the UK, or at least a European car. What is going to  happen? Are they going to be taxed more? In the second hand car market we are still seeing the effects of years of uncertainty over diesel."
        
    "The key thing for any business is to be ahead of the curve or at least be aware of where it is going before it gets there. For any business you would be absolutely crazy to  bury your head in the sand. It gives you a very good reason to read the latest industry news so you know what is going on."
        
    One problem that most businesses in the UK don't have to worry about is a land border with the EU. For businesses in Northern Ireland  that is a real concern. Will Northern Ireland motorists head for the Republic for servicing and repairs if prices rise as a result of Brexit?
        
    "There is already a lot of that happening in Northern Ireland" said Colm. "We are about an hour's drive from the border. Some of my customers in trade sales, they sell a lot of cars to the south because the Pound is weak. We can make the most of that depending on the situation, as we can buy stuff from down there and sell it up here, or vice versa. I am optimistic, and we can make the most of that kind of situation. Because we are so close to the border,
    we can be flexible. Northern Ireland is unique that way, and more flexible if we have to adapt. If Brexit becomes
    a complete nightmare there are options in terms of suppliers."
        
    Then there's the threat of a hard border: "That's a big issue," opined Colm, "and a complete minefield. We have enjoyed this border-free situation for a long time now, and no one wants to go back to having a hard border. The flexibility would be gone. No one wants to go back to the old days here."
        
    Despite these concerns, Colm remained confident: "Anyone who is in the higher end of this business is ready to adapt to change. In the next few years you won't see an engine or a piston as it is all going to electric motors. It is change or get out really. Brexit is another factor in the motor trade, albeit one that is going to affect your life in a big way."

    Double meaning
    Next, we looked to Scotland, where the issue of exiting a bloc has a double meaning. Pier Garage is based in Ardrishaig, Mid Argyll. Owner Kris Gordon's first concern, like his counterparts in other parts of the UK, is access to data: "My biggest concern is definitely access to information. You can't get all the information from all car manufacturers. Even with the situation we have at the moment, we still struggle. With someone like Ford, they make it quite difficult to get it, and they do charge you for everything, so whether it works worse or better is my
    main concern.
        
    "I voted to leave at the time, for other reasons. There was so much stuff being put out there that you didn't know who to believe. You just had to pick a side and go with it I think. Nobody knew what chaos would happen as a result of it all. I suppose if you had thought about it, it was obvious what was going to happen. Now we are in a situation where nothing has been answered. It is worrying, because it has been a hard enough few years since the banking crisis in 2008, and now it looks like it is all going to get worse. We will have to ride it out and see what happens."
        
    Kris believes Brexit could be leading Scotland into a period of greater uncertainty than the rest of the UK: "I think it will cause a lot of distraction rather than getting people focused on getting the economy in a better place. Political parties will be thinking 'do we have to have another independence referendum and then rejoin the EU?'  Again, I voted for an independent Scotland, but now it has been decided, everyone has made their choice and is getting on with it. Despite this, the SNP is still focused on a second referendum, rather than just accepting the result and getting on with things. If we have another referendum and it goes the other way, where will it end? It could go back and forth, and the same with Brexit, there is always going to be someone who is unhappy. I think they need to accept it and do the best they can."

    Your views
    We found a mixture of views from business owners on both sides of the argument. Do these views on Brexit chime with your own? Or do you have an opinion not expressed here? We would love to hear from you. Get in touch with us via alex@aftermarket.co.uk to tell us what you think.

  • Recruitment: What to do about it?  

    This year’s crop of year 11s will be winding up towards their GCSEs over the next couple of months. From there some will opt for the academic route and head onto A-Levels and beyond, while others will be looking to apprenticeships. It must then be time garages to start looking for some new staff to train up?

    Well, probably not – we have already lost out on the 2018 school leavers. No, really. If we wanted to attract them we should have been talking to them and their parents during 2014, or perhaps even earlier, perhaps when they were still at primary school in 2012. Because we didn’t do that, they are going to choose another industry. There’s a host of reasons why, but what do we do about it?

    Things are going to get better?
    “The automotive sector does face a long-standing skills shortage, which is likely to worsen with the developments in new technology,” says Steve Nash, chief executive at the Institute of the Motor Industry.  “New government statistics have shown a
    15% drop in automotive apprenticeship starts, however we haven’t fared too badly compared to the overall 61%.”

    Considering what the industry as a whole has to offer, you’d think young people would be flooding in: “The motor industry has over 250 different job roles that can offer young people a life-long career,” says Steve, “whether that’s in a technician role or management, designer or marketing. Businesses in the motor industry are a shining example of what can be provided through quality training and apprenticeships. We’ve had plenty of practise in providing these training programmes that have allowed us to grow to be one of the largest sectors operating in the UK. Businesses in the automotive industry are certainly well-rehearsed when it comes to adapting to any new changes that are introduced, whether that’s the Levy or Standards that have recently been implemented.”     

    Young people are not going to come our way if they don’t know that however: “The government has removed nearly all careers advice available in schools around the UK,” Steve points out, “and this is having a huge impact on young people. The IMI surveyed parents and young people to find that over 80% of parents said they would choose the university route over an apprenticeship for their children, so it’s clear that transforming apprenticeships alone isn’t enough to breakdown the stigmas associated with vocational learning.

    “Government are continuously reviewing the apprenticeship model, and automotive businesses like Rolls-Royce remain at the heart of these changes. It’s important we’re doing our upmost to transform apprenticeships, and the IMI are confident that the dedication shown by businesses will help attract more young people.”

    So what about technician licensing? It’s already on its way to being reality in one corner of our industry: “The IMI is currently lobbying for a Licence to Practise for vehicle technicians working on electric and hybrid vehicles. Without regulation and a minimum training standard, there are significant safety risks for technicians who may not have any form of training before coming into contact with high-voltage vehicles.

    “The motor industry deserves recognition for their individual training and skills when it comes to working on such advanced technology. The licensing scheme would provide that credibility, as well as offering other benefits to the individual technician who are trained and qualified to work on low-emission vehicles. Benefits include the fact that businesses would be keen to recruit them in order to allow the business to service and maintain these vehicles, and as we’ve seen lately that the appetite for electric and hybrid vehicles shows no sign of slowing down considering their has been as increase of 35%
    this year. Businesses must make the investment in training their staff in order to provide them with the skillset that’ll allow them to service customers who own high-voltage vehicles.”

    Grow your own
    Is licensing the magic potion that will fix all our problems? Industry consultant Andy Savva isn’t so sure: "I'm all for some kind of licensing, but it has to have meat on the bones, not be just some kind of tick-box exercise. Even if we went down that route, I don't think it would have any significance at all on recruitment. This has been an issue for a few years now.

    "We have quite a few problems as an industry. Firstly, the push towards university-based futures from 10-15 years ago took almost all of the young talent away. At the same time there was a lack of decent apprenticeships so there were even less young people contemplating a career in automotive, specifically in the garage repair sector. Coupled to that is the lack of upward mobility for those dynamic young people who want to progress and not just stay on the tools or the front desk. Thirdly we pay very low as an industry compared with other sectors.”  

    Do we need to think bigger?

    “If we don’t raise the status of our industry collectively, then how are we going to recruit the next generation of people regardless what side of the fence you’re sitting," observes Andy.  “In Germany you can't own or manage a garage unless you have completed a three-year degree in Automotive Engineering, which combines business modules too. People in these roles are held in
    the same esteem as solicitors and accountants.”

    Outside of the lack of careers advice, those working in our educational institutions tend to have a very narrow view of the industry that does not help says Andy: "When I speak at schools and colleges, and I get given a group of youngsters, the teacher usually says something like 'these are the kids that are not going to go to university we thought the motor trade may suit them.’ It's not like that now, it's men in white coats. There is probably more computer power in a car now than in most general offices, but people don't look at it like that.

    “The outside world seems to think that if you are not academically minded, and there is nothing wrong with that, then the motor industry is fine for you. They are given the impression that it is low skilled career, but it is far from that.”
    Once someone is in the sector, they are not always handled well either: "At the moment, collectively we have disregarded proper recruitment strategy. How many garage owners understand where recruitment starts from? How do we recruit? Most of them will do the same thing. They will put an ad in the paper or go through a recruitment agency. Now I have nothing against recruiters and there are a handful around the country that offer a wider set of services. I’ve seen at first hand how they are trying to engage with young people at an early stage through a variety of ways up and down the country and I applaud them for this.

    “On remuneration, most garage owners will then pay the same as everyone else because it is the going rate, or even cap technician salaries regardless of skill, age and knowledge. This attitude limits the pool of people who can attract and usually means a whirlwind of the same people going around for a few hundred quid extra or a couple of hours off during the week.”
    Andy adds: “We need to be going into schools at an early age, as a collective automotive sector. It's about growing your own and taking on apprentices and nurturing talent and having a proper personal development plan for each individual and providing proper clean facilities with the correct tooling to enable these youngsters to blossom.”

    All or nothing
    Glen Shepherd, co-founder at automotive recruitment specialists Glen Callum Associates also thinks technician licensing might help with recruitment, but agrees it would not be the end of the story: “Technician licencing may fulfil the wants of the younger generation by allowing them a career option of a ‘professionally skilled job, recognised nationally with continued professional development and training’, however I believe the key to ensuring awareness of the offering to entry level generations would be wholly determined by the promotion of the licencing scheme.   

    “Having attended many recruitment seminars on ‘attracting the millennial and Gen Y generations’ the consensus of opinion is that younger people are on the whole attracted to careers that offer personal development, training, transparency of duties and ‘an employer that holds and demonstrates good values and ethics.’  Licencing, if promoted correctly via schools, colleges and through successful marketing could aid recruitment from emerging generations into the aftermarket.”

    How does this help the skill shortage and awareness of those generations already rooted within the workforce though? “The image of the aftermarket doesn’t mirror the actual modernisation that the sector has undertaken. So, how do we address image and increase awareness of the aftermarket offering?  My view is to inject new blood into the industry, not necessarily at entry level, but by reaching out to talent within comparable industries that carry similarities such as the industrial and engineering sectors. Introducing the outside world into what the sector has to offer and thereby expanding and utilising skills from other sectors.   

    “Companies are trying to employ from a reducing talent pool of traditionally skilled staff, thus pushing up current salaries and increasing demand. By opening out to new skill sets, albeit within periphery sectors, allows increased awareness of the aftermarket, the introduction of new ideals and ideas and a wider pool of skilled staff from which to engage.  

    “We can do this by educating companies within the aftermarket who have historically only recruited within the sector to help broaden their expectations and to promote the benefits of working within the industry. Do we need ‘technician licencing’ to be able to do this?  I think not, however all a positive initiatives promoting recognition of the professionalism within the sector is surely helpful.”

    Don’t stop what you’re doing
    How the industry is viewed is a key issue clearly: “The perception of the motor industry by those outside it creates an image problem that exacerbates many of the issues facing independent garages today and the skills shortage is just one of these” says Terry Gibson, head of member services at the Independent Garage Association (IGA). “However, whilst attracting young people into the industry will solve the problem in the longer term, there is also a need to upskill those already in the industry. This is not limited to hybrid and other new technologies, we face an equal problem in replacing retiring MOT testers where there is an equally pressing need.”

    The IGA is working towards helping widen the net: “The IGA is working with the Armed Forces to consider how best to address the particular need for MOT testers by helping to retrain skilled and experienced military vehicle fitters to aid in their transition to civilian life and this will work alongside an initiative with a major recruitment company.”

    While careers advice in schools has been found wanting as we have seen, Terry believes the industry itself is going in the right direction promoting the importance of training and development, so at least existing staff in the sector continue to upskill: “The messages spread by trade bodies and by the specialist trade press focuses heavily on training and development and this article is a good example of that. The opening of the RMI’s Academies of Automotive Skills shows that the industry is promoting training and development for existing technicians.

    On licensing, Terry observes: “While blanket licensing might, over  time raise the perception of the technician role,  we do not believe it would be a major influencing factor in deciding on an automotive career for young people today – although in the absence of such licensing anywhere in our industry makes it difficult to predict its effects.”

    Terry adds: “We must continue to stress the high-tech nature of modern motor vehicles and ensure that the industry is presented in the best light to those outside. To that end the IGA is working with television producers to ensure that the portrayal of the garage trade in popular drama is realistic and representative.”




  • Electric future shock  

    The need to adapt to changing vehicle technology is one of the main challenges of our time in the sector. Increasing connectivity and a vastly more complicated conventional vehicle provide a whole raft of obstacles on their own, before you even get to the rise of electric vehicles and hybrids.

    Add to that a more uncertain legislative environment resulting from rules not quite keeping up with the technology coming in, and you’ve got yourself a whole host of issues that the entire industry needs to stay on top of if it is going to continue to offer a sterling service to customers.

    Let’s look at electric vehicles. For Tom Harrison Lord from Fox Agency, the b2b marketing company specialising in the automotive sector,  Automechanika Birmingham offered a troubling glimpse into the future:  “This summer’s Automechanika Birmingham was entertaining and enjoyable as ever, but it also exemplified a worrying trend in the motor industry today. With the advancement of electric vehicles, there are going to be some rapid and stark changes ahead. The automotive aftermarket, however, seems to be burying its head in the sand.”


    Access
    The key, as it has been in the past, is access. In this case, the right to be able to repair vehicles. Think that’s all sorted? Perhaps not:  “The rise of the electric cars and vehicles is something that could hit the automotive aftermarket hard – in particular, independent garages.

    “Many, if not all, electric vehicles invalidate their manufacturer warranty if essential work is carried out on the electrical systems by someone other than the main dealer. What’s more, many cars with batteries, such as the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, have warranties on the electrical components lasting up to ten years.

    “Having no choice but to use the main dealer for a full decade shows just why independent workshops will have fewer vehicles coming through the doors in the years ahead.”

  • IAAF promotes Mike Smallbone 

    The Independent Automotive Aftermarket Federation has promoted Mike Smallbone to the position of Head of Membership Development.

  • New Philips EcoPro lamp range  

    The new Philips EcoPro range of LED work lights is quipped with high-quality LEDs and hands-free features. The range also provides the powerful bright light (6,500 K) needed to get the job done, making the lamps perfect for everyday use in automotive workshops. The EcoPro50 provides a portable and powerful rechargeable projector lamp, and comes with a magnetic mounting accessory. The EcoPro40 has a non-slip grip, and it is lightweight and versatile, making it an ideal work lamp for everyday use. The EcoPro40 is also fitted with a handy spotlight on the top of the lamp.
    www.philips.com/automotive


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