Tell us a bit about your association. When were you founded, where are you based and how many people do you employ?
The Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) is the professional association for individuals working in automotive and 2020 is our centenary. 100 years ago, society was experiencing rapid technology-driven change and the IMI was created to establish new skills and knowledge benchmarks for the emerging automotive industry. Wind forward 100 years and the IMI is still at the forefront of emerging automotive technologies, championing the best skills as well as preparing the sector for the new automotive revolution, from ADAS and autonomous driving to zero emissions.
Headquartered at Fanshaws in Hertfordshire, the IMI employs more than 100 automotive and education professionals, with a network of regional representatives providing support to individuals and businesses in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. However, our reach goes well beyond the United Kingdom. Through alliances with like-minded professional bodies and automotive employers around the world, the standards designed by the IMI are setting the benchmark for the best in automotive learning and continuous professional development globally.
What does the business do?
The automotive sector is crucial to the UK economy. But our industry also faces a number of critical challenges: attracting and retaining talent; skills gaps at senior and entry level; regulatory change; and overall public confidence.
The IMI supports the automotive retail sector by benchmarking skills, developing relevant qualifications and delivering training through its network of more than 600 approved IMI Centres nationwide. It also assesses and accredits the competence of those working in the sector, helps people develop their careers through more than 350 regulated qualifications and over 25 accreditation routes, and supporting apprencticeships. In addition, the IMI runs an international membership community of automotive professionals and campaigns to build public confidence in the sector.
How is business? What’s the outlook for the year ahead?
Clearly 2020 is proving to be a year unlike any known in our lifetime. But that has meant the role of the IMI has become ever more crucial. Our 70,000+ members, as well as our UK and international IMI approved Training Centres and the employers who rely on our standards, are all looking to us to help them navigate through the changing landscape created by COVID-19.
As such, while 2020 was going to be a year of celebration for our centenary it has become a year of focus and action to support individuals and businesses that have seen their circumstances change beyond recognition. We have created dedicated resources for those who have found themselves furloughed or made redundant, and for businesses that had to shut during lockdown. We have accelerated our programme of online e-learning tools. We have worked in partnership with other leading industry bodies, like SMMT, to provide automotive retail businesses and training centres with the support for reopening safely, as well as identifying ways to get customers back through their doors – physically and virtually.
Another big challenge for 2020 – and beyond – is the sustainability of apprenticeship recruitment in the sector. The IMI is an authorised End Point Assessment Organisation (EPAO) for no less than 20 Apprenticeship Standards, which cover the traditional technical bases such as Light Vehicle Technician, Heavy Vehicle Technician, as well as specialisms such as Sales, Management & Supervision, Automotive Finance Specialist and many others. The automotive sector has been a strong advocate of apprenticeships for many years. However, as COVID-19 impacts income for many businesses, there is a fear that apprenticeships may be cut. The IMI is therefore working hard to lobby government as well as provide support to training centres and employers to try to find ways to maintain apprentice recruitment and employment in 2020 and future years. It is vital that the sector remains focused on skills development, particularly with so much innovation coming down the line, regardless of COVID-19.
What are the big issues or technological advances that fill you with positivity?
There are some considerable challenges facing the automotive sector in the next 10-15 years, not least of which is the proposed ban on the sale of new petrol, diesel and, potentially, hybrid vehicles that is currently being consulted on by government. The continuing development of autonomous motoring, in all its guises, is another big challenge for the sector. However, whilst these challenges can appear daunting, the IMI is excited to be working with individuals, employers and training centres to ensure that motorists are given the confidence that their safety and wellbeing will always be paramount. And that IMI Registered Professionals, who have achieved the appropriate industry agreed standards, can be relied upon to have the knowledge, skills and professional competence to cope with whatever technological innovation brings.
Steve Nash, Chief Executive Officer at the Institute of the Motor Industry