The Automotive talent pipeline needs unblocking: apprenticeship starts 31% behind pre-pandemic levels


Latest IMI Education Report shows automotive apprenticeship starts have not recovered from the drop during COVID and the sector remains behind on its use of levy funds.

The latest analysis of apprenticeship starts in the automotive sector, released by the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI), makes for sobering reading as job vacancies remain at a 20 year high[i]. While automotive apprenticeships have increased 12% in the first 8 months of the 2022/2023 academic year compared to the same period in 2021/2022, the take-up is still significantly below pre-pandemic levels.

2022/2023 apprenticeship starts for the first 8 months of the academic year:

  • 8% below same time frame in 2019/20
  • 31% below same time frame in 2018/19

As Emma Carrigy, Research & Insights Manager at the IMI explains, this is significant cause for concern as the sector faces accelerating demand for talent to work on, sell and support new automotive technologies including EV and ADAS.

“It is encouraging to see that automotive employers are working hard to bring new talent into the sector, compared to the same period in the last academic year. Indeed, we are among the few sectors that have actually seen an upturn in apprenticeship start numbers year-on-year.

“However, our data shows that automotive employers are lagging behind other sectors when it comes to using levy funding. This seems to be a huge missed opportunity particularly when inflationary pressures ae so challenging. So far for the 2022-23 academic year, 59% of automotive apprentices are levy funded compared to 67% across all sectors.”

The apprenticeship levy means employers with a total annual pay bill of less than £3million pay just 5% of the cost of their apprenticeship training while the Government pays the rest.

The other concern for the IMI is the drop in vocational qualifications as a whole at the start of 2023. The total number of automotive certificates issued in Q1 2023 is 7% lower than the previous year, potentially suggesting that employers are pulling back on training and qualifications in the face of rising inflation.

Employers are, however, trying to recruit with IMI data suggesting 111,400 roles need to be filled in the next 10 years. The IMI believes that part of the reason behind the ever-widening skills gap is a general misperception about the career opportunities and working conditions in the automotive sector. The professional body is therefore setting out to debunk the outdated perceptions that are at the heart of the recruitment challenges.

Central to the campaign will be real voices telling real stories about their positive career experiences and highlighting the opportunities that exist for individuals, whether at the start of their working life or looking for a change in direction. The IMI is also engaging with employers to put their vacancies in front of those looking for their first job or a career change.

The IMI Education Report can be downloaded here.