My car course won't start

2nd July 2004 at 01:00
A new qualification for car sales staff is stalling before it is barely out of the showroom because employers are finding it so hard to get funding.

The new level 2 certificate and level 3 diploma in vehicle sales were launched last November to tackle a skills gap in the industry and to banish the "Arthur Daley" image of car salespeople.

The qualification was developed in association with Automotive Skills, the skills council for the vehicle industry. It is on the national qualifications framework, which makes it eligible for state funding, and has been backed by car giants including VW, Audi, Ford and Vauxhall.

But car dealerships have been unable to get funding from local learning and skills councils. The industry points out that many dealerships are small garages so cannot afford training.

One private provider, North Humberside Motor Trades Group Training Association, brokers training for 112 garages throughout Hull and East Riding.

The association's contracts manager David Willoughby says the group has been unable to gain LSC funding for the qualification in spite of high demand. "If one of our members wants a sales qualification, we have to push them on to a college," he said. "But employers like to do the training on their own premises."

The new course is work-based, as firms want. It includes practical assignments, workplace assessments and multiple-choice exams done on the internet. It aims to help the car sales industry keep its staff - up to 40 per cent leave every year.

The awarding body, the Institute of the Motor Industry, spent a year developing the new certificate and diploma at a cost of pound;50,000. It had hoped the new qualification would encourage car dealerships to invest in training.

Previous efforts to set up qualifications for car sales staff have met with limited success. Four years ago the industry got a lukewarm response from employers when it launched a modern apprenticeship and awarded its first NVQ level 3. Employers found the portfolio-based NVQ route did not suit staff. The average entrant into car sales is in their mid-20s and in their second or third job. The new qualification was designed to be much more accessible and open to all ages.

The Institute of the Motor Industry had aimed to put 1,000 staff through training by 2005, setting a new benchmark standard for its sales people.

But it says take-up has been limited to firms that can afford to fund it.

"New qualifications have been specially developed in partnership with employers, yet the funding is not available to them even though the qualifications are on the national framework. "There is evidence that this situation is restricting necessary skills training within one of the UK's biggest areas of employment."

Automotive Skills is in discussion with the Learning and Skills Council to resolve the funding dispute. An LSC spokesman said vehicle sales staff training may not be high in some local LSCs' priorities for funding.

He said: "The new training course is eligible for public funding, regardless of whether it is offered through a college or work-based provider. However, the fact that a particular course is eligible for funding does not automatically mean it will receive it."

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