Inspiring the industry's future

by Steve Nash
10 Oct 2018
Inspiring the industry's future

More years ago than I care to remember (or admit to), I gained my first taste of the motor industry through a summer job delivering parts for a large manufacturer-owned London dealer/distributer. This indirectly led to a lifelong career in the industry – by way of a brief sojourn as a trainee chartered accountant where I one day found myself auditing a large dealer and realised that this was the environment that truly excited me...

In a few weeks’ time I will be talking to some sixth form school children as part of the Speakers for Schools programme – something I have done previously. When I was their age I couldn’t wait to get my driving licence and when I passed my test at the age of 17 it really felt like the key to freedom – the opportunity to indulge my love of driving. It isn’t quite like that anymore though. Many young people are ambivalent about driving, especially those living in or around big cities like London. For them, Uber and its ilk are the answer to mobility.

So how do you excite and engage an audience of so-called Generation Z teenagers, many of whom have no great interest in cars? Well, there is actually quite a lot that our industry offers which will resonate with them. Research commissioned by the IMI reveals that, unlike Generation X and Y, those in this generation are less keen to commit to the higher education route. The lack of universal careers advice (only 50% receive careers advice and half of them say it’s of little value) means that most haven’t seriously considered vocational alternatives to university such as apprenticeships. But this can easily be rectified with the right information.

The fact that our industry is going through profound change is certainly something that I have found to excite teenage audiences in previous addresses. The idea that they can be part of something that is changing the future of how we will live and move around really appeals to them. The IMI’s Autocity website (autocity.org.uk) was originally developed with the help of some funding from the UK Commission for Employment & Skills (UKCES) to underline the sheer variety of roles that exist in automotive retail alone. It may even surprise those who have been in the industry for a while to know that there are around 150 different roles in automotive retail – and we have recently updated video clips of people talking about all of these roles, what they involve, and how to get into them. The site also contains really useful advice and information for teachers, students and – importantly – parents who remain the greatest influencers of young people’s future directions.

We know that new roles will emerge in the next few years that don’t exist today. It wasn’t so long ago that we didn’t have programming bays in our workshops or product geniuses and F&I accreditees in our showrooms – and these changes are engendering new people requirements at a rapid rate. So for young people looking to join a dynamic industry we have much to offer. In fact, I quite envy the opportunities they will have to be part of the mobility revolution over the coming decades.

Today’s generation may not have the same enthusiasm for cars and driving that previous generations did, but then the cars that are coming over the next five to 10 years aren’t going to be the same either. There will still be plenty of exciting products, though, and plenty of opportunity to get young people engaged – as I look forward to doing on my forthcoming school visit.

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