In an open letter penned by IMI President, Professor Jim Saker, and its CEO, Steve Nash, the pair have highlighted that just five per cent of the UK's automotive workforce is trained to work with EVs. That equates to between 13,000 and 20,000 technicians to cover a rapidly growing pool of plug-in and hybrid cars, vans and other vehicles.
And the trouble for the industry is that whilst there are many transferable skills between ICE and EVs, an awful lot of additional training is required. “Without those skills, serious injury or death is a very real prospect,” the letter states. “Yes, we have Electricity at Work regulations, but right now only five per cent of technicians working in garages and dealerships are appropriately qualified to work on these vehicles.”
Another issue which has arisen this year is the huge impact COVID-19 has had on increasing the number of certified technicians. In 2019, 6500 certificates for working on electrified vehicles were issued, which – according to the letter – could have been enough to cater for demand in 2030 if the trend continued. But the second quarter of 2020 saw the number fall by 85 per cent compared to the same period in 2019, jeopardising the electrified future.
The IMI letter states that: “As a country, we urgently need a concerted, ongoing workforce development strategy,” and that “electric is the right choice – for the environment, for jobs, for our children's futures. But like all revolutions, this one requires fuel. The fuel of skills.”
Three key points of appeal are made by Saker and Nash of the IMI:
Pete Kearney, Strategic Business Exec at automotive training specialists, Pro-Moto, has worked with the IMI on creating standards and training. He previously told us: “Pro-Moto is one of a number of progressive companies which decided that a critical ingredient in the success and continuing advancement of the EV industry would be the skills, competencies and insights of the people and organisations working within it. Businesses we have trained and accredited include vehicle manufacturers (franchised locations), independent servicing and repair companies, recovery and rescue services, technical colleges, crash repairers, insurance companies... The list goes on.”
Pro-Moto has trained well in excess of 4000 technicians, and other organisations are stepping up to the challenge. One is Mission Motorsport – a charity which helps re-train ex-servicemen, and is now enabling them to become accredited EV technicians. Chief Exec and Founder, James Cameron, said: “Many forces personnel have extensive experience in handling high voltage equipment; it’s just part of the day job. It makes perfect sense to reapply this experience in the automotive sector which is currently facing a shortage.”
Halfords Chief Executive, Graham Stapleton, has also told The Guardian that the firm would be training an additional 1500 technicians to work on EVs and personal mobility solutions such as e-scooters. By the end of 2021, Halfords will have 470 trained EV technicians.
Mass adoption of EVs faces numerous hurdles – consumer understanding and behaviour, charging infrastructure, reducing the costs... many more besides. The IMI is right to highlight that to keep people's EVs rolling, trained technicians, in far larger numbers, will be required. Should the industry, and government, respond and help implement the requirements put forward in its three-point appeal, we might just have a critical mass of trained people before 2030 comes around.