AutoRaise introduced to Ireland

Perhaps the most critical issue in the industry at the moment is a shortage of skills, and that was addressed at IBIS Ireland 2017 by Bob Linwood of AutoRaise, who was introducing the charity to the country for the first time.

He explained how the AutoRaise was borne into an industry that was on its knees due to a lack of training and a broken apprenticeship sector.

Bob said, ‘We’re working with an industry that had a total lack of confidence in itself, no real sense of self-worth. We wanted to address that.’

The critical factors of failure, he said, were a focus on university rather than apprenticeships, a lack of man-management skills among employers whose background was technical, a culture of seeing younger people as cheap labour, an unsuitable apprenticeship framework, and a broken funding system for training providers that didn’t focus on the wellbeing of the young learners.

The UK government tried to rectify the situation by putting apprenticeships back in the hands of the employers through its Trailblazer system, and changing the funding structure. Taking advantage of that, bodyshop owner Chris Oliver gathered a group of repairers together and together they came up with the brand new AutoRaise multi-skilled apprenticeship standard.

‘It was created by repairers, for repairers,’ explained Bob.

Instead of a three-year, single-skill apprenticeship, the AutoRaise multi-skilled apprenticeship standard they developed is two years, providing graduates with a platform understanding of paint, panel and MET.

Bob hopes that this shorter, more varied approach will engage with apprentices and keep them interested, while also opening a range of different careers within the industry.

However, rather than just creating a standard, AutoRaise decided to go further than that and actually go out and try to recruit young people into the industry. It decided to do that by encouraging bodyshops themselves to host events where younger people were invited in to see the technology at work and bust the myth that it’s a dirty, dated environment.

Bob said, ‘We felt we could encourage employers to open their doors and show young people what the industry is like. We want to show that it can be lucrative, attractive and sustainable with never-ending prospects to grow your career. And it doesn’t just have to be within repair. There are a wide range of different careers within our industry.’

The first showcase event took place at Rye Street Group, hosted by Bill Duffy, and three more have since been staged, with many more in the pipeline.

With Bob then giving up all his other business interests to focus on this exclusively, AutoRaise became an official charity on December 1. He said that until then it had been like pushing three boulders up a hill, but after that ‘all three boulders toppled over the hill and I’ve been chasing them ever since.’

With such emphatic industry buy-in so far, Bob has set some stretch targets for AutoRaise by 2020: 50 showcase events; 1,500 affiliated repairers; 100 partners.

He concluded, ‘We recognise there’s not one switch that will suddenly make everything alright. So among the things we do, we walk employers through the process, we signpost them to training providers, we engage with parents and guardians, we induct young teenagers into the AutoRaise Cadet programme and, importantly, we also help and encourage the learners.’

IBIS is only possible thanks to the support of headline partners AkzoNobel and Audatex, and partners Enterprise Rent-a-Car and Synergy.