IMI Magazine

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Licensed to train

Learning and Skills – Licensed to train

Automotive Skills issues plea for greater partnership

The retail motor industry’s new training body has struck a critical note by looking at the role played by one of its major partners, colleges of further education.Schools and colleges came under fire on two fronts at the launch of Automotive Skills, the new Sector Skills Council for the retail motor industry.

Salvo one came from education secretary Charles Clarke who said schools and further education establishments should be doing more to highlight the attractions of working in industry – especially one which involved “the seductive charms of the car”.

“Regrettably, parts of the education system are still sniffy about industry,” said Clarke. “There are teachers who feel it’s ‘below salt’, that a vocational route compared with an academic route somehow takes you down the grubby end of real life.”

Salvo two came from Patricia Richards, chief executive of Auto Skills, who said that some training providers still had “a Henry Ford attitude of any colour you like as long as it’s black – they deliver learning tailored to their courses, to a timetable decided by them and at a location convenient to them”.

Richards said that the need for more flexibility over training delivery was reflected by the rapid growth of on-line learning. One of the first moves by Automotive Skills, now that it had obtained its Sector Skills licence, would be a major promotion of services provided by the e-learning organisation and government partner Learndirect.

“As the voice for the retail motor sector on skills issues we shall also be introducing forums for debate about the changes and challenges facing the industry,”said Richards. “We aim to work in partnership with bodies where there is clear mutual advantage – training providers, trade association, awarding bodies and (on the manufacturers’ side) the Automotive Academy.”

Peter Johnson, chief executive of Inchape and chairman of Automotive Skills, said skills development was “at the heart” of an industry directly and indirectly employing nearly 2m people and generating a £130bn turnover in sales, maintenance and repair.

“The awarding of a Sector Skills licence to Automotive Skills signals a clear message from government for everyone to support the work we shall be carrying out,” said Johnson.“Excellence in customer service is delivered through people skills, through their positive attitudes and total professionalism. As an industry we can ensure excellence by attracting the highest calibre of recruits, in particular more graduates and more women into the sector.”

Charles Clarke said it was “vital to have a better partnership” between employers and further education establishments so that young people entering the industry had a clearer idea of a career route. “At the moment there is a morass of different qualifications. We are looking g to guidance from employers to overcome this confusion and diversity.”

Clarke also acknowledg3ed a call from Sue Brownson, managing director of Blue Bell (BMW) and a board member of Automotive Skills for “a simpler funding regime – what we have at the moment is a very complex set-up”.

‘Our mission’

Automotive Skills says its four key tasks are to:

  • Work with employers to identify and help reduce skills shortages
  • Develop innovative way to both attract new recruits into the industry and develop the skills of the existing workforce
  • Help employers improve their productivity by raising skills levels
  • Influence government, its agencies and education and training suppliers to respond to employers’ needs
Automotive Skills’ board members are: Peter Johnson, chief executive of Inchape; Sue Brownson, managing director of Blue Bell (BMW); Jim O’Donnell, managing director of BMW (GB); Roger Putnam, chairman of Ford of Britain; Sir Trevor Chinn, chairman of Kwik-Fit; Fred Maguire, chairman of  Lookers; Trevor Finn, chief executive of Pendragon; and Peter Roberts, chief executive of Thatcham.