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Research into UK vehicle technician competence shows "an industry in crisis"

The first major qualitative research into standards of technician recruitment, training and testing throughout the UK retail motor industry has exposed two extremes. The four-month study by the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) identified notable "pockets of excellence" among some manufacturers and retailers, but revealed serious shortcomings, inconsistencies and poor practice among others.

The IMI examined technician recruitment processes, training development and competence assessment across the whole UK motor industry. The research drew comparisons with other industry sectors, such as aerospace and gas installation, in which technicians are strictly regulated by law.

The key findings of the IMI’s research are:

  • A general absence of structured process in technician recruitment
  • Poor and inconsistent induction for new technicians
  • Evidence of a significant lack of formal competence assessment
  • Minimal development training, despite increasing product sophistication
  • Minimal career structure for technicians
  • High costs of training in terms of provision and participation
  • Few cases of highly rigorous competence measures
  • A significant shortage of "highly skilled technicians" for advanced fault diagnosis

Although manufacturers claimed high investment in their technical training provision, often as much as £2million per year, turnover of technicians among retailers was found to be between 20-40% per annum. Costs associated with recruiting, developing and retaining staff within the retail sector were also found to be significant.

The research identified that, in most cases, responsibility for training and development standards fell to a manufacturer’s area management team, which was also responsible for generating sales. In this context, added technician training was not seen as a business priority.

Commenting on the research, Sarah Sillars, IMI Chief Executive, said today:

"Our research is indicative of an industry in crisis. We cannot continue to hide from a situation where it is possible to get a job without any qualifications in such a complex and commercially vital part of the business. We have identified a need for rigorous and consistently applied processes and standards for technician recruitment, development and assessment with long-term cost benefits."

Continued Ms Sillars:

"In the absence of government legislation, the IMI will now work tirelessly in partnership with industry to seek a way forward for a robust and regulated model of individual licensing. In principle, this has already received the full backing of key stakeholders, as well as major consumer groups. What’s more, this presents a great opportunity to raise the status of skilled people."

The IMI’s full research study is available upon request. Email imi@motor.org.uk