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Investing for the future

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Compared to other industries, the automotive repair sector has been largely resilient to the effects of the pandemic, but this year’s events have forced many businesses to evolve much more quickly than planned. In the short term, some garages are working with a streamlined team but expected to fulfil a higher demand for services, while others are in a more fortunate position of being able to use injections of government cash to invest in growing revenue opportunities, equipment upgrades and technical training, to help futureproof the business.

However, investment in technicians of the future has sadly dropped significantly over the past year. The Institute of the Motor Industry, IMI, says the latest Department for Education data shows that apprenticeship starts in the automotive sector in July 2020 fell by 59% compared to the same period in 2019. The trade is struggling to fill vacancies as it is, and this will get even tougher if we do not attract the younger generation into this fast-evolving industry.

We asked the IMI why garages should consider taking on an apprentice and how to go about it in the right way.

ADD VALUE TO YOUR BUSINESS…

During heightened economic uncertainty, apprenticeships are an obvious solution for the motor industry. And 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 25 and over, will be paid £1,500.

But for many garages, there is still a lack of understanding about what’s involved in bringing an apprentice on board. Here Mark Armitage, Head of Membership Products and Services at the Institute of the Motor Industry, explains some of the key factors that automotive employers should think about when considering taking on an apprentice.

“For smaller employers (less than 50 staff ) that are the backbone of the motor industry, 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. But it’s s still vital that the best return is achieved from the investment of time and resources. We have, therefore, identified a few key steps in bringing an apprentice into a business.”

AN APPRENTICE IS NOT CHEAP LABOUR…

It is important to have the right mindset about an apprentice. They are not cheap labour. They must be paid at least the minimum wage and they must work with experienced staff; learn job-specific skills and get time for training or study during their working week (at least 20% of their normal working hours).

Making the right choice of Apprenticeship

As an employer, you must work with a training provider who will operate to a standard for the chosen apprenticeship. So it’s important to think about the skill set that your organisation requires – the IMI offers End Point Assessment Solutions, for 20 Apprenticeship Standards covering most job roles.

The right fit

When recruiting an apprentice, the manager who will be responsible for them should be involved in the selection process. This will ensure a good fit with the apprentice’s personality and the organisational culture.

Buddying up

The right framework should be put in place to support an apprentice once they join the organisation. This includes a dedicated apprenticeship mentor who can guide them through their programme, and answer any questions they have. Obviously for many smaller businesses there may not be a dedicated apprenticeship mentor, but it’s important a direct line manager is responsible for their education, training and wellbeing.

It’s also worth giving the apprentice a ‘buddy’ – an experienced employee at the organisation that the apprentice can ask simple questions.

Onboarding

It may sound obvious, but a clear onboarding plan is also crucial to ensure the apprentice feels welcome and can hit the ground running, especially if they are young with little experience of work.

Schedule study

Apprentices must spend a minimum of 20% of their time training off-the-job, under government rules. An employer should think about a study schedule that minimises disruption to the apprentice’s job. Some employers set aside time in the morning before the workplace gets busy. The key is to experiment and find a timetable that works for everyone.

Apprentices deliver immense value to a business, not just in bringing fresh blood to the organisation but in delivering a real return on investment. To find out more about recruiting an apprentice, visit https://tide-uat.theimi.org.uk/ apprenticeships-epa

EMBRACING TECHNOLOGY…

Whether you are a firm supporter of the transition from fossil fuel-powered cars to alternative fuel vehicles, or a combustion engine stalwart, there is a growing appetite to purchase hybrid and electric vehicles. We are currently falling way short when it comes to charging infrastructure but with talk of the ban on sales of petrol and diesel cars being brought forward to 2030, no doubt heavy investment will follow.

Depending on the location of your workshop, you may have not yet received an enquiry for servicing an AFV but if sales continue on their upwards trajectory, it’s the proactive businesses and technicians of today who have completed the vital training to safely maintain and repair them, who will capture this growing business.

We asked master technician & workshop owner Matt Cleevely, why he invested in all things EV. “I decided to invest in electric vehicles around three years ago, for the future of my 60-year- old, family businesses.

“Personally, I’m heavily invested in renewable energy – with solar, battery storage and rainwater harvesting already installed at my home – and I wanted to learn and develop my own skills professionally. So, I took the training and bought a Nissan Leaf, not fully prepared for the difference it would make to our lives, both at home and work!

“Our business has benefited hugely from being involved in EV in the early days. We now have a second-hand EV sales centre, and we service and repair multiple electric vehicles every day. I absolutely love the way EV’s drive and no-longer own a combustion engine myself.

“I’m looking forward to what the future holds for my business, as we are seeing such a growth in EV work – I’m now looking to invest in additional workshop space and staff.”

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