‘We forgot the future’

During a panel discussion at IBIS Ireland 2018 focusing on the industry skills gap it was claimed the industry ‘forgot the future’ with regards to developing future generations.

The session featuring Colin Hagan MBE, managing director, Riverpark Training and Development (NI) Ltd; Michael Massey, vehicle paint and refinishing technician, Alton Cars Ltd; and Dave Reece, Ford collision project manager saw the panel debate the challenges and opportunities faced by the industry.

Dave suggested the industry has been a victim of its own ‘stupidity’ – ‘in the UK we’ve created various standards and turned them into a commodity and we forgot about the future.’ Whilst Colin suggested the problem of attracting young people to sector was two-fold: the focus on academic study and the stigma legacy attached to apprenticeships.

Dave suggested the industry was simply not getting infront of young people enough or at the right time and that was compounded by the fact that 50% of apprentices pull out within the first six months of starting. Dave also added the anecdote that he personally had never seen so many technicians retiring as he had so far in 2018.

Providing an alternative perspective, Michael described how there are young people out there who have the skills and right mindset to excel and the recent successes at Worldskills prove that. ‘Colleges and training providers can set you up so far but you’ve got to also gain real life experience because it can be challenging at times,’ said Michael who explained how his employers Alton Cars now have some 40 apprentices on their books.

Discussing areas such as the need for investment, improvements to facilities and remuneration the session touched upon how improvements in the new apprenticeship framework have made them more ‘future ready’ but a warning was issued that the pace of change is only accelerating and the industry needs to continue to move at pace.