Theme 1: Meeting the challenges of rapidly changing skills
The pace of technological change within the automotive industry is increasing rapidly, which in turn impacts on the rate of skills change. With the fast pace of industry change, skills grow obsolete quickly. The apprenticeship offer needs to be flexible enough to respond to fast changing skills.
The automotive industry is rapidly transforming towards Industry 4.0 with massive advancements in technology development and processes which in turn, will lead to a major change in the skills profile of the workforce. Many jobs and processes will need to be redefined, with the emergence of a range of new specialist skills at the same time that some existing skills will diminish in importance. In relation to apprenticeships Industry 4.0 implies both the need to attract a higher level of applicant in order to be able to learn rapidly as jobs evolve and increased use of the digital training for delivery
The evidence of changing skill requirements within the automotive sector shows how these changes will impact at all skill levels. Apprenticeships are needed at every level including higher levels with clear progression pathways between different levels.
Theme 4: Meeting upskilling and reskilling requirements
The rapid rate of skills change has huge implications for the continuous upskilling of existing employees. The scale of this training requirement will dwarf the requirement for training of new entrants. Employers need tailored, flexible and often bite sized solutions to meet their needs. Apprenticeships need to support upskilling and provide clear learning pathways between different levels to facilitate continuous reskilling. Apprenticeships need to be flexible enough to meet these changing upskills/reskilling needs possibly through the adoption of a more modular approach.
Theme 5: Understanding the EU automotive apprenticeship offer
There are wide variations across the EU in terms of overall apprenticeship models adopted, with significant differences in the overall apprenticeship offer, funding mechanisms, quality assurance procedures, overall governance arrangements and delivery methods. This makes comparison of the different apprenticeship offers across different EU countries quite difficult. Tools are needed to help employers and individuals understand the apprenticeship offer across different nations.
Theme 6: Encouraging SME involvement in apprenticeships
Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SME’s) face particular challenges in relation to taking on Apprentices. This includes greater difficulties in recruiting candidates which meet their particular needs, and providing the required learning and development for their employees. Many SME’s also struggle to offer the range of skills required by Apprenticeships in a work setting, given their particular specialisms.
As automotive supply chains become increasingly globalised in nature, by contrast apprenticeships tend to be focussed nationally or even more locally. This poses challenges for employers and for the mobility of apprentices seeking employment across national boundaries. Recognition of apprenticeships by different employers is also a problem in some cases. Initiatives that support a move towards a single market for automotive apprentices across the EU will be important.
Prior to the COVID 19 outbreak apprenticeship delivery was typically characterised by a high level of learning on the job, in the workplace, including learning by shadowing staff or gaining practical skills from a colleague. During periods of lockdown imposed as a result of COVID 19 this traditional approach has not been possible, with delivery having to change to an online approach. Restrictions posed by COVID have underlined the need for a range of innovative approaches at all apprenticeship stages including not only an increased reliance on on-line delivery of learning but also for assessment of apprentices.
A range of innovative solutions are required to address the poor image and diversity issues within the sector. Apprenticeships can play an important role in helping to tackle diversity challenges and wider recruitment issues facing the automotive sector.
The ways in which apprenticeships are funded vary widely across different EU countries with a mixture of different funding arrangements evident including approaches that place funding responsibilities entirely or partially with employers, entirely as a government responsibility or through tax subsidies, social security funding or partial government reimbursements. There are a number of examples of innovative ways in which funding has been used to maximise apprenticeship take up.
Theme 12: The need for close dialogue between employers, providers and other stakeholders
Many of the current and likely future skill requirements within the automotive sector are quite complex. It is also the case that apprenticeships need to balance the need for equipping apprentices with the skills required for successful careers in the automotive industry with the need to meet employers’ specific changing skill requirements. This highlights the importance of not only understanding these requirements in detail, but the need for a close and continued dialogue between employers in the sector together with schools, colleges, universities and other providers of apprenticeship training to ensure the apprenticeship offer evolves in line with these changing skills requirements.