Looking back over 2011 the Institute of the Motor Industry has had a productive and successful year on behalf of its members and the automotive retail industry.

    National Apprenticeship Week in early February saw the IMI championing the role of apprentices within the automotive retail sector. Showing once again the differing roles and high level of training available within the sector. The IMI welcomed the Government announcement in September regarding its new measures making it easier for employers to take on large numbers of apprentices. The automotive retail industry is one of the top three sectors in the UK to offer Apprenticeships as a route to a career in the industry.

    To showcase skills within the industry the IMI’s national competition SkillAuto took place in August. It highlights the most skilled apprentices in mechanical repair and servicing for light vehicles, autobody repair, and car painting. The WorldSkills competition in October, which is the equivalent of the Olympics for vocational skilled professions, saw the British automotive team come away with two bronze and one silver medal, showing the high standard needed to work in the sector.

    The IMI has been intent on proving that training drives business and this year it published four independent studies in July and December, which were carried out by the University of Leicester. Teaming up with Allparts Automotive Ltd, Halfords Autocentres, Mercedes- Benz UK, and Autoglass®, the research looked at the impact of the IMI’s skills accreditation programme, known as Automotive Technician Accreditation (ATA).

    All four reports had positive findings and showed a return on investment ranging from 98% to 187% with additional benefits across the board, including raised technical standards, professional status, productivity, profitability and customer confidence. Ruth Badger from The Apprentice TV show even added her weight to the cause as it is something she believes in and regularly recruits apprentices into her own business.

    April of this year saw the launch of the Professional Register aimed at all individuals in the automotive industry who have proven they have the right skills and knowledge to practice professionally within the automotive sector, abide by a code of ethical conduct and who continually maintain their professional standards by committing to continuing professional development (CPD) and proving current competence.

    Professional Registration is about continuous investment in skills, if an individual is good now, they must stay good. That is why the Professional Register requires individuals to commit to maintaining their skill levels through continuing professional development (CPD). In order for individuals to continue their professional development the IMI launched a range of courses designed to support its latest initiative. Covering topics such as passenger car technology, vehicle damage repair techniques, management & leadership development, sales processes, customer service, compliance and legislation. For the first time it brings many of these courses to those who previously couldn’t access these training opportunities before.

    The Government report “Better Choices: Better Deals” also issued in April highlighted that the IMI’s accreditation scheme had brought about a step change in the automotive sector’s attitudes to maintaining skills.

    Looking to the future of the industry the IMI secured over £3 million of investment in November on behalf of the automotive retail sector, as part of phase 2 of the Government’s Employer Investment Fund (EIF), to deliver projects to boost enterprise, jobs and growth.

    The investment further strengthens the Institute’s mandate to improve standards of professionalism across the industry through the qualification, development and recognition of individuals.

    The funding will enable the IMI to develop a suitably qualified workforce to meet future demand and improve economic performance. It also further reinforces the value of the automotive professional register.

    As well as the funding that will see the IMI move skills training forward within the automotive retail sector, it has also been re-contracted as the provider to deliver Universal Services for the automotive retail sector. Universal Services cover the key products of National Occupational Standards, Apprenticeships and Modern Apprenticeship frameworks and qualification related products.

    Having achieved the set-up of the Professional Register on behalf of its members and had its accreditation scheme recognized as a step change for the sector, thanks to the commitment of its members and industry support, the IMI is now well placed to further its influence to benefit the automotive retail sector in 2012.