Why apprentices are good for business

Jon Oxtoby

Alex Knight

04 Apr 2019

Apprentices have long been the lifeblood of the workshop. Fresh, eager to learn and keen to make their mark in the world of work, apprentice technicians have always been vital in the on-going success of the aftersales department.

The industry has a long, proud history of employing apprentices and they are now found in the showroom and in the back office providing a stream of enthusiastic new employees.

As the annual National Apprenticeship Week was celebrated last month (March) businesses continue to wrestle with the apprenticeship levy whilst earlier this year the government conceded it would not reach its target of creating 3 million new apprenticeships by 2020.

Yet apprenticeships are good for business, good for the economy and good for young people, what’s more buy in from fully trained technicians is high since the vast majority began their careers via the same route.

However, the Department for Education (DfE) recorded a 24% fall in apprenticeships starts during 2017-18 with much of the blame ‘levied’ at the levy, introduced in 2017. Labelled as ‘bureaucratic and inflexible’ by businesses a series of reforms were introduced along with an extra £90 million of funding to provide more flexibility.

Not surprisingly, the decline in apprenticeships following the levy’s introduction in the sector was never as pronounced as the national figures. Recovery is also apparent in automotive as employers adapt to the new system although numbers are behind demand from dealers.

The IMI provides a range of apprenticeships for the industry including those specially developed for sales and customers service roles. The IMI is also working to develop Professional Standards to protecting technicians working on electric and hybrid vehicles and secure minimum training standards for technicians working at different levels on electric and hybrid vehicles, from basic maintenance to full diagnostic and repair.

In 2014 the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI), developed a model to calculate the potential productivity and return on investment (ROI) from an apprenticeship. Measured by sold hours, the calculations were made with the involvement from dealers which supplied historical and ongoing productivity data from about 30 apprentices and apprentice-trained technicians.

According to IMI calculations, apprentices typically generate an ROI between 150% and 300% and become profitable typically after 18-24 months although a significant number will be profitable within 12 months.

Data from the IMI also shows home grown apprentice-trained technicians invariably outperform market-recruited technicians whilst they also help reduce long-term recruitment and training costs.

By working in a company at such a young age, often straight from school with many aged just 16, apprentices are a ‘blank canvas’ making it easier for them to absorb a company’s culture and embrace best practice. With workshops now using video messaging to show customers either a clean bill of health when their vehicle is on the ramp or to explain work required, today’s apprentices have the advantage of being part of the digital generation. Unlike their older mentors, they have grown up with smartphones, the internet and YouTube so are much more open to communicating digitally. These tech savvy youngsters are also well placed to grapple with the tool used most in today’s workshop, the laptop.

For more information on making the most of the levy, read this article:

Topics: automotive, engagement,, products, 2020, apprentices

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