Steve Nash, Chief Executive Officer of the IMI, presents the case for investing in technician training.
Independents have always been used to competing against the buying power of the manufacturer franchise marketplace, but with the increasing pace of automotive technology the pressure has probably never been greater.
Add to that the commercial challenges as a consequence of COVID-19, and it’s not difficult to see that some independents may be wondering where their future lies.
However, I firmly believe that there is immense opportunity for the independents that see a value in investing in the skills now that are required for the next stage of the automotive evolution, with IMI TechSafeTM providing the standards for the sector to work to. The culmination of detailed work to develop the Electrified Vehicle Professional Standards, the EV TechSafe Standards centre on EV qualifications, IMI accreditation, accredited training, professional behaviours and a commitment to CPD over an agreed number of years. The standards comply with the Electricity at Work regulations, which are enforced by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
With endorsement from OLEV at the end of 2019, EV TechSafe gives independent garages a competitive edge as the UK government deliberates how quickly it can achieve zero emissions. But whatever the eventual date, the businesses that invest in training for their technicians will be the winners.
Of course, right now, making any sort of commitment to future training will be a daunting prospect, but there are routes to funding that can really help with that.
For example, the top-ups being offered by the Chancellor to help employers bring apprentices on board are a further reason to make this choice now. From August to January, any firm that hires a new young apprentice aged 16 to 24 will receive £2,000, and those that hire new apprentices that are 25 and over will be paid £1,500.
It’s also important to remember that for smaller employers (less than 50 staff), apprenticeship training is still heavily subsidised by the government, which picks up the bill for 95% of the training costs, or 100% where the apprentice is 16-18, or an eligible 19-24 year old, as per government funding rules (more information can be found here).
Independents can also tap into e-learning routes for existing members of staff. We have seen a huge shift in the use of e-learning tools in the last six months, and there has been a particular focus on electric vehicle modules, which is encouraging to see.
Whilst, at the moment, electric vehicles are largely maintained by the franchise marketplace, as these vehicles mature, they will move into the independent sector.
We are therefore urging independent garages to invest in quality training to ensure their employees are equipped with the knowledge and skills to repair and service new technology. Otherwise they are going to struggle to compete in a sector that is experiencing such change.