21 Jun 2024
The voice of the independent garage sector

IMI open letter to Secretary of State for Transport

Open letter to Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Secretary of State for Transport

The automotive sector contributes £37 billion to the UK economy, providing jobs for nearly 850,000 people; 81% of those jobs are in the retail sector selling, servicing and repairing motor vehicles. The efforts of the sector will also make an important contribution to the government’s decarbonisation plans. There are, however, significant challenges facing automotive employers, for which there is considerable knock-on impact for both those working in the sector and the wide variety of individuals and organisations that rely on mobility for their daily lives and business. Government support would make a big difference to tackle these challenges.

The Institute of the Motor Industry hopes that the new Secretary of State for Transport, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, will examine closely, and urgently, where her Department can provide the crucial support necessary to ensure the sector remains a valuable contributor to the UK economy.

First and foremost is the question of skills. The latest Automotive Sector Employment report from the IMI found that the pandemic, decreased immigration and fewer people of working age, are all fuelling an escalating skills crisis. We believe 160,000 vacancies in the sector will need filling by 2031. Bringing young people into the workforce is critical; so too is increasing its diversity.

Government support for access to apprenticeships is vital, particularly as our most recent data shows that automotive apprenticeship starts in the first 10 months of the academic year 2021/22 are 13% lower than 2019/2020. And, while not strictly within the Department for Transport remit, it would also be significant for the BEIS review for the Shortage Occupation List to include the automotive sector.

The second big challenge is decarbonisation. Without the skilled workforce to repair and service electric, hydrogen and other zero emissions technologies, the government’s ambitions could seriously stall. Our latest data suggests 15% of the automotive workforce is now IMI EV TechSafeTM qualified – enabling them to work safely on electric vehicles. But, with a forecast of 90,000 for the right number of TechSafe™ qualified technicians to work with electric vehicles by 2030, we believe there will be a shortfall between electric vehicles on UK roads and the sufficient number of approved technicians to service, repair and MOT them by 2027.

The continued endorsement of the IMI TechSafe standards, which not only keep our workforce safe and informed but also give motorists confidence that they can access the services they need in a fair and competitive marketplace, is crucial. So too is investment in training to help the sector get ahead of the skills curve. There is also a critical need to develop appropriate standards and qualifications for those working on connected and autonomous vehicles. Again we need government support for the regulatory requirements to keep our high standards and expectations of safety for all road users as well as ensure the safe handling of sensitive information within the industry.

The automotive industry is at the heart of the UK economy and the IMI looks forward to working with the new Secretary of State to ensure it remains fit for purpose, enabling the transition to net zero, supporting the vision for Global Britain, and becoming world leaders for the much-needed demand for vocational

Hayley Pells
Policy Manager, The IMI