Funding to change training models

Thatcham’s Repair Focus 2016 saw the skills debate and changing training model top the agenda during an event themed ‘Bodyshop of the Future’.

During the Skills of the Future panel discussion chaired by Tom Hudd, national technical services manager, UKAARC and including Dean Lander, head of operations, Thatcham Research; Christine Maskill, managing director, NCR Bodyshops; Robert Snook, managing director, MG Cannon and Dawn Swales, ‎HR & training manager at Nationwide Just Car Clinics the audience heard how changes to apprenticeship funding would mean employees needed to take the lead in developing successful programmes.

Thatcham’s Dean Lander took the lead in explaining the new apprentice funding levy – which in April 2017 will see the way the government funds apprenticeships in England change. Some employers will be required to contribute to a new apprenticeship levy, and there will be changes to the funding for apprenticeship training for all employers. However, as Dean pointed out several questions still remain and he suggested, ‘Up until April 2017 it is difficult to know what will happen’.

Due to the changes, Tom Hudd who is also chair Collision Repair Sector Trailblazer Group, explained how discussions were underway with fellow Trailblazer pioneers, AutoRaise as to how to make the changes to funding as transparent to industry as possible. ‘Later in the year we hope to have a joined up approach to share with industry to make it easy to understand and engage with the programme.’

Christine Maskill suggested the changes were going to make choosing apprentices for the future a challenge. We will need to see a much more joined up approach between the employer and the training provider,’ said Christine. ‘I think there will be a key role for mentors and managers within the smaller repair community to make sure that apprentices are equipped – no longer will we just be able to take anyone with manual skills on, perhaps we are now looking at initial testing to see if they would have the capability to be more than just a hands-on technician – we need a lot more in the sector.

Robert Snook suggested that in the future one of the things the sector will need to do is invest time much earlier in the apprenticeship selection process. ‘You will see bodyshop partner with schools and colleges so that you are working with that person for a year before they actually arrive at your premises. You get to learn much more about that young person’s character and skillset before you actually offer them a job – it’s much better to find out about these people’s ambitions before you employ them.’

Supporting this idea, Dawn Swales highlighted how two years ago Just Car Clinics (now part of the Nationwide Accident Repair Services) changed the way it recruited and worked with a local college to run a traineeship for potential apprentices. ‘I believe the one thing, as an industry, we do need to look at is does a three month traineeship work for the industry? And it does because I have had no dropouts on our scheme,’ explained Dawn.

With much of the discussion around apprentices, Robert Snook took the opportunity to highlight how the industry also needs to address continuous management level training. ‘As an industry we need to get out of is the habit of seeing training going from the bottom upwards – it is completely the wrong way around for the industry we will be facing in the near future – we have to be looking at top down.

‘An IMI statistic highlights that only 18% of those in ownership or senior management positions involved within the repair industry today have any form of management training qualification. Of that 18% that do have something, it is typically an operationally based accreditation from their time as a service manager several years ago. So over 80% of people owning and operating repair facilities today have no qualification. As an industry, to cope with all the changes occurring around us we have to look at it very closely.’

Dean Lander supported Robert’s view and stated, ‘This is absolutely key and goes back to the management of an apprentice. If you cannot offer leadership to an apprentice, then despite investing sums of money into their development, they will not stay in your business and that has been proven time and time again. Mentor training and management training is critical.’

Robert then proceeded to tie pieces of the jigsaw together. ‘What we have really got to understand is what does your business need to be in the future? Unfortunately, the iggest strategy within this industry at present is hope – and that is not a strategy. You are going to need to adopt training within your business just as much as you do finance and accounting and be just as rigid in your plans in the way you set it out and stay on top of it. The most expensive training of all is no training.’

Christine Maskill suggested training an apprentice should be a mandatory requirement of any bodyshop questioning ‘why should you not invest in the future of your industry?’ she continued, ‘It is our duty to take a young person on and people of our generation are not going to be around this industry forever – at some stage there will a mass exit.’

To support this opinion, Christine made a call for backing from blue chip organisations. ‘We are very fragmented as an industry, 80% of business goes via independent operators and 20%, even with the consolidation taking place, goes a more corporate direction. With that the access to training is fragmented.

‘I would throw this out to any insurers in the room and ask is there anything you can do to offer back to the industry – and I know there is currently one insurer which is doing this – to help our industry because you cannot repair cars without us.