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Lisa Bingley, Operations Director at the MTI talks about a new qualification set to help get the automotive sector back on track following the pandemic.

“The automotive sector has experienced a year of seismic change and unprecedented disruption. Vehicle production dropped by as much as 99 per cent in April as manufacturing was halted by the coronavirus lockdown. Despite initial signs of recovery, it may be some time before production capacity is rebuilt or subdued demand recovers to pre-COVID-19 levels.

“The crisis has made an impact on liquidity, supply, production, and demand dramatically affecting the sector throughout its supply chain. In the recovery phase, the success of the sector will depend on its ability to bounce back quickly, incorporating social distancing measures into its processes and procedures, and adapting to different ways of working including accommodating individuals who continue to work from home.

“As lockdown paralysed the nation, we were reminded of the central importance of mass transportation to our daily lives. The logistics network was seen to be essential to the nation as part of operations to keep food, fuel, and medicines on the move. We learned not to take for granted that supplies would be available in shops or that we would be able to access goods from overseas.

“The automotive sector is worth £82bn to the UK economy and exported over 1m cars across 150 markets last year. UK automotive manufacturers including Jaguar Land Rover, Nissan and Mini employ 823,000 people and work with 2,400 suppliers. It is vital that the industry makes a strong recovery post-pandemic to take advantage of the opportunities emerging from the crisis.

“A renewed focus on the green economy is likely to gather pace as the beneficial effect of the lockdown on air quality was logged. In one study, nitrogen dioxide levels were seen to fall by 36 per cent as a result of the reduction in traffic volumes in Birmingham city centre. Much has already been accomplished with overall CO2 emissions down 29 per cent since 2010 but there is a lot further go if we are going to meet the UK’s ambition of achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

“The development and growth of CAVs will contribute significantly to this target and increased use of electric vehicles is set to bring £62bn of growth to the economy along with 20,000 new jobs by 2030, more than half of which will be highly skilled.

“The UK is a global leader in terms of market attractiveness and its regulatory environment and technological developments will see the rise of sophisticated driver assistance systems including adaptive cruise control and safety features such as autonomous emergency breaking, forward collision warning, and automated blind spot information.

The sector keenly awaits the National Infrastructure Strategy which will set out a plan to include priorities for energy networks and the future for road and rail. The Prime Minister has already committed to a £1bn investment in electric vehicle technologies as part of the Government’s ‘New Deal’ that could see the rise of ‘gigafactories’ mass producing batteries and other electric vehicle components. Innovative R&D projects will see £10m of funding directed towards support for manufacturing motors, electronics, and fuel cells. Plans include the development of the first zero emissions long haul passenger aircraft.

“All of these opportunities call for highly skilled individuals and, with productivity notoriously sluggish in the UK, businesses continue to be concerned about skills shortages with 61 per cent in the engineering sector expressing concern about hard to fill vacancies. According to Engineering UK, we need over 200,000 individuals to gain engineering qualifications at Level 3 or above by 2024 to meet the shortfall.

“At the MTI, we are directly addressing future skills with the introduction of a new Level 4 apprenticeship specifically aimed at developing the skills of propulsion technicians. This new standard, which includes a Higher National Certificate (HNC), has been designed in partnership with industry and is recognised by organisations including IET and IMechE. It is based on a blend of knowledge, skills and behaviours that will bring professionalism and expertise to the workforce.

“The apprenticeship cover all aspects of this specialised technician role from data collection and analysis, project management, and problem solving, to efficiency techniques including Six Sigma and Kaizen, and is designed to enhance practical abilities in the development of propulsion systems based on the internal combustion engine, hybrid and electric technology including emissions, product analysis and verification. It is suitable for technicians developing batteries, engines, powertrains, and advanced control systems.

“At a time when organisations need to be as lean and efficient as possible and so may not be able to take on new employees, it is all the more important that they invest in their existing staff and identify the candidates that they believe have the potential to grow and develop with the structured support of an apprenticeship. There is funding available for these qualifications through the Apprenticeship Levy or Levy Transfer Scheme and employers need only commit to permitting time away from the workplace to enable staff to secure their qualifications.

“Off the job training takes place at the MTI, a specialist facility designed specifically to train the next generation of engineers in the latest automotive technology. The MTI is helping to create specialist skills in some of the new disruptive technology areas including electrification and driverless cars. The facility is located within the MIRA Technology Park Enterprise Zone, Europe’s leading location for mobility R&D and developing the latest automotive technologies.

“Since we opened our doors in 2018, the MTI has welcomed over 8,000 students and delegates. This includes over 630 studying for accredited qualifications from a Level 1 Institute of the Motor Industry certificate up to Masters’ degrees, and nearly 250 following apprenticeships at all levels.

“At the MTI, we are ready to support businesses within the sector to get their employees signed up and on track and put themselves in the best position to take advantage of the potential opportunities now emerging from the devastating impact of the pandemic.”

For more information on the new engineering apprenticeships, browse our courses.