IMI calls for new focus on skills

The IMI has urged the automotive industry to focus on training and recruitment in 2022 in a bid to make up the ground lost during the pandemic.

Steve Nash, CEO, said: “At the start of 2021 it’s unlikely that many of us would have believed we would see the seismic changes that have completely turned our sector on its head. At that point furlough was still being heavily relied upon by many businesses, we were in another phase of lockdown and the semi-conductor shortages that have decimated new car sales had not yet become widely apparent.

“What a difference a year makes. And whilst the new car market looks unlikely to recover significantly until the latter part of 2022, the used car market has not faltered, giving a number of organisations a level of financial stability they could not have anticipated at the start of 2021.

“Of course, there are predictions that demand in the used car market will flatten in the next few months. But it is still expected to stay strong through 2022. And that, I think, signals that now really is the time to reinvest in the skills that are so desperately needed, both for the here and now and for the future automotive revolution.

“Automotive retrenched in 2020 and didn’t do much to address that in 2021.  Apprentice recruitment is still exceptionally low – at most recent estimates around 39% below 2019 – and investment in training was severely cut. But if our sector wants to be at the forefront of the decarbonisation revolution, it has to invest in the skills now to be ready to market, service and repair the new generation of automotive technology, from electric to connected and autonomous. And I don’t believe there are many excuses for why this can’t happen. The stellar results reported by many of the major retail groups must surely be reinvested now, especially as, clearly there is no point waiting for government intervention.

“But training and retraining alone won’t fix the skills gap automotive currently faces. There is an arms-race for those already skilled and qualified to work on the new technologies so the pool of talent has to be widened. To achieve that, the sector needs to appeal to a more diverse workforce. It also needs to help the next generation of workers – the teenagers who are starting to think about their future – see just how exciting automotive is as a career choice. Automotive truly is a tech-led sector but we all need to work hard to help students, parents and educators understand the potential that it offers.

“I feel exceptionally positive about the opportunities in 2022. Automotive has re-invented itself several times and a future that includes connected and autonomous motoring as well as all the environmental benefits of new drive-trains heralds the start of the next motoring revolution.  But now really is the time for any business that wants to be part of that revolution to accelerate the pace of training and reskilling and apply a more diverse attitude to recruitment.  For me, 2022 is the pivotal year for automotive.”