Only in the motor trade

Aftersales conference carWhat industry has the least amount of graduates than pretty much any other sector in the UK? The motor trade.

What industry spends a whopping £100 million a year on training, much of it completely unaccredited? The motor trade.

What industry has a tendency to promote their best sales executives into managerial and eventually head of business positions without any training? The motor trade.

But, and there is a but, a very big one, in fact. What industry remains one of possibly a very few sectors where a shop floor to boardroom ethos is in everyday operation? The motor trade.

And I’m not talking about the manufacturers, I am talking about working at the coal face, at the tough end, where every sale counts and every penny in every unit and every minute in every labour hour counts. I am talking dealerships or as we now like to say, automotive retail.

I had an interesting discussion with the IMI’s CEO Steve Nash the other day, who, incidentally, will be talking at industry magazine Automotive Management’s aftersales conference later in April, hence the reason for the chat. He reeled off a number of facts and figures including:-

* The average number of graduates employed in other industry sectors is 58%, automotive retail manages a paltry 17%
* As a sector, an almighty £100 million is spent every year on training but much of it fairly meaningless because it is not accredited although the IMI is currently working with manufacturers to change that so their training courses will attract a nationally recognised professional qualification

But, I refer back to the original but: where else can you start life at 16 as an apprentice technician in the workshop and end up running one of the biggest dealer groups in the UK? Automotive retail – not necessarily the manufacturer although there are several examples of apprentices who are now in some very senior positions.

And Nash is passionate that he doesn’t want to lose that arguably, incredibly unique characteristic of the industry where the glass ceiling, in the main, doesn’t exist. But he does want to lose the ‘sink or swim’ mentality and start training the sector’s future dealer principals, divisional directors and industry leaders at a much earlier stage in their careers to best prepare them for the roles they will undoubtedly undertake.

I am involved in a parents’ skills group at my daughter’s school – a grammar school in Bucks. My fellow group members did look at me rather incredulously when I was talking about the extent of careers and opportunities which exists in automotive retail and at the time I was determined to show them this was a viable career path for any young person, including a grammar school kid. Now armed with additional facts and the depth of passion and commitment from Nash to deliver a nationally recognised professional qualification for the sector’s leaders which in turn will provide a clear cut career path to tempt ambitious, high calibre people; I am ready to pitch again to the school!

If you would like to hear Steve Nash speak in more detail on this subject, join AM at its conference in Oxfordshire

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