A change in policy is needed to future-proof the aftermarket or risk not having enough skilled workers to sustain the impending EV surge.
That’s according to the head of the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAE) who claims changing the laws around apprenticeships to allow for one-year courses – rather than the current minimum three – will not only attract more trainees, but also allow the upskilling of current staff.
It is this upskilling which will be key, RAE director Rhys Morgan told CAT.
“The risk we have at the moment is that as more and more electric vehicles are sold, and they need to be repaired, garages are just not able to deal with that as they haven’t got the skilled staff,” he said.
“Two things need to happen. We both need apprenticeships for maintenance and garages, especially with the EVs incoming, but we also need to be upskilling the workforce.
“Freeing up restrictions around apprenticeship [law] to allow shorter duration training for existing technicians and engineers to work on electric vehicles, and understand how they work, is going to be really important.”
The call comes as part of National Apprenticeship Day, the annual event which falls on 1 November. This year the RAE is again pushing for more apprentices – from an array of backgrounds – to take up roles within the industry.
Another big issue is a lack of diversity within the automotive engineering sector, especially women.
This, Rhys said, is affecting the industry’s development of new innovations as it moves towards a more tech-rooted future.
“We have a real gender issue in engineering,” said Morgan. Currently, just 16% of the engineering workforce are women.
“There are just too few women going into engineering careers, and if you think they make up 50% of the population, that’s the difference we need to address.”
But it’s not just about getting more women into the workforce, Morgan said. “We also have to look at the broader aspects of diversity as well, such as different ethnic groups, and then socioeconomic groups as well”.
Why is there such a lack of diversity? It’s down to the portrayal of the industry, said Morgan, something which is formed by many at a young age.
“We need to highlight to young people, girls and boys, that there are many people like them working in engineering, they’re just not seeing them. It’s about making engineering role models much more visible.”
As well as looking to make the industry more diverse, the RAE is using the day to just get more trainees into the workforce. It is predicted more than 78,000 new roles within automotive will be needed by 2040.
It follows a steady decline in the number of apprentices taking up positions, down 25% over the past five years.
“It is proving really damaging,” said RAE director Rhys Morgan.
“What we can clearly see is that if we are to meet our net zero goals, we have to have more engineers and technicians, in particular if we are thinking about the electrification of vehicles, that’s a whole new cohort of technicians that we need to be developing – and apprenticeships are a key way of creating those key skills for our industry.”