IMI warns of ‘time bomb’ to bridge skills gap for EV technicians

The Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) claims the EV industry faces a “ticking time bomb” to ramp up the number of qualified technicians in the UK.

Analysis by the IMI revealed that only 11% of technicians in the UK are qualified to work safely on EVs, and despite this representing a 4.5% increase on 2020, the industry group says this highlights the serious skills shortage in the percentage of the automotive sector competent to work on EVs.

With one in four cars set to come with a plug by the end of the year, according to predictions by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), the IMI fears a “ticking time bomb” of consumer confidence, as motorists struggle to find appropriately qualified technicians. The organisation is therefore renewing its call for greater fiscal support.

“Of course, it is welcome news that the number of EV qualified technicians is growing, yet it is clear that the skilled EV workforce is not keeping up with sales of BEV, PHEV and HEV vehicles”, said Steve Nash, CEO of the Institute of the Motor Industry.

“Despite Government’s positive commitments on charging infrastructure in last month’s EV strategic review, if the workforce is not quickly and efficiently up-skilled, we face the very real problem of lack of technicians available to keep EV’s on the road and able to use this enhanced network.”

According to the IMI, by 2030 the government’s Road to Zero target, there could be a shortfall of 25,100 qualified technicians and current forecasts predict that this shortage could materialise as soon as 2027, as sales of EVs accelerate. Challenged with risking the safety of technicians and undermining confidence that motorists’ electric vehicles can be serviced, maintained and repaired by a garage with the right skills, the IMI has once again called for a £15 million boost to help get 75,000 more technicians EV ready.

Nash added: “Nobody is suggesting that getting back on track with technician training post-pandemic has been easy. While manufacturers and their franchised dealers are committed to EV training, lack of funding means independents risk being left out in the cold and this skills premium risks consumer choice being restricted and EV servicing costs rising.

“If the government wants to meet its own decarbonisation targets it must be willing to bolster funding. No matter how impressive an EV infrastructure the UK might boast, the government must stop its ostrich like behaviour regarding the widening skills gap, pull its head firmly out of the sand and invest in a skilled workforce, or risk failing to meet its 2030 ambitions.

“The automotive industry is a tremendously exciting tech-led sector to work in. Fiscal support would not only help re-skill existing technicians, but also help attract school leavers and career changers into a sector which has an increasingly diverse attitude to recruitment.”

The IMI TechSafe™ standards, endorsed by OLEV (now OZEV) at the end of 2019, mean that electrified vehicle users can access the IMI Professional Register to check the electric vehicle technical competencies of technicians at their local garage. But the latest IMI data shows that the sector currently falls far short of achieving a critical mass of technicians qualified.