Q: What are the key IMI initiatives in India?
Lonsdale: IMI is working globally to promote vocational skills training in the automotive sector, and to encourage governments and educationists to invest in vocational training for their students and employees. Part of that process led us to discussions with the government of India which is going through a major vocational training programme. The government is doing it in collaboration with the World Bank which gives funds to provide vocational training to about 200 million people. In the developing world the population is aging so there are skill gaps that could be filled by Indians.
There is a growing awareness in India and elsewhere in the world that it is not enough to talk about growing the economy, but there should be talk about growing the people. Vocational training is to equip people with the right skills for the right sectors so that as individuals they gain employment to improve their lifestyle, family prospects, help their employers to be more productive and pay taxes. That is why IMI is encouraging stakeholders to promote vocational training.
This has created an opportunity for the British and Indian governments to cooperate in different sectors with some funding from the India British International Research Agency. It is only a small amount but the purpose is to enable the Sector Skills Councils (SSC), appointed by the Indian government about four years ago, to train and deliver vocational skills.
IMI is the Sector Skills Council for the British Automotive Industry. We got involved in India’s Automotive Skill Development Council (ASDC) as it has the authority to award certificates to learners based on its standards. ASDC reports to NSDC (National Sector Skill Development Corporation) which works on behalf of the government to disburse the available funds. ASDC also gets funding from the employers who are involved in this.
Q: How does IMI support ASDC?
Lonsdale: An IMI working group has helped India to map the Indian National Occupational Standards. Mapping standards is a difficult process but ASDC has made a very good start. This has allowed us to understand what is now known as the Indian National Occupational Standard (Automotive) with over a number of occupations of mechanics from level 1 to 4.
Following this process, this has become known as Transnational Standards and we have now completed the mapping of ASDC versus IMI to identify any potential gap between the two.
ASDC has been progressively introducing a Qualifications Pack through its centres in India that deliver automotive training, and this has been done against the agreed qualification criteria. The main objective is to get to a stage where the Indian qualifications for automotive occupations will be aligned to IMI and European qualifications, and we will continue to work through this process alongside the government of India.
Q: Was the IMI team in India working towards this goal?
Lonsdale: We spent two weeks in Delhi; the first week we worked with NSDC to look at how we have taken the initiative further, and in the second week we set out to meet employers to understand more about the automotive skill development initiatives in India.
During this visit we went to Ashok Leyland and met with the Vice-President, Services, where we held very interesting discussions on training their employees. We then travelled to see a local auto dealer and spoke to the sales and service managers where they do nearly 150 services a day. For the most part they try to find workers with ITI qualifications at the basic level and use their own training programmes to augment the workers’ skills.
Following many discussions, they have welcomed an arrangement between ASDC and IMI since it gives their people a chance to get an international qualification.
Q: What kind of gaps did you find in India compared to other countries?
Lonsdale: The gaps are at the process level in terms of the National Occupational Standards. It is the foundation on which you build qualifications. We have various units within our qualifications, so we are working with ASDC to help them get their units in the right order so that they have a genuine alignment of their qualifications with IMI qualifications.
We also went to Mahindra & Mahindra to visit a dealership in New Delhi where they have a number of training programmes available. It is an ASDC accredited centre. We discussed the possibility of having ASDC/IMI centres of excellence in India as ASDC has around 1,400 accredited centres in the country.
Q: What is plan of action for this?
Lonsdale: The initial plan is to find a way for those Indians who wish to work overseas to gain qualifications that will enable them to get better paid jobs because, as it is said, one of India’s major exports is people. But Indians go to the Middle East and they often find themselves in relatively lower paid jobs because they don’t have the requisite qualifications.
The first stage is to set up a self-selecting cohort of people that will direct workers to enrol at the right centre to get IMI qualifications.
The Indian government has a system of paying the fees for those who cannot afford it, and the IMI qualification will be aligned with these Indian qualifications.
It means that a person who has graduated from an ASDC centre of excellence will be able to go abroad to get a better job and be recognised for his training. We have many centres in the Middle East and Malaysia so people there know about the IMI and workers are already being trained to the IMI standards.
Q: You had earlier mentioned about collaborating with India. Is this the beginning of that?
Lonsdale: We have still some way to go to have a number of ASDC/IMI centres of excellence but we hope to have some pilot centres in the near future.
We are planning to map the process and aligning the qualifications. Once that is done we have to make a proposal to ASDC that will require funding to establish a working model. It is reassuring to see that most people in India want to see an improvement in vocational training.
Q: There are skill gaps in the dealerships, service centres and on the manufacturing front of the automotive components space. Is there any slot to accommodate them?
Lonsdale: IMI is primarily interested in sales, service, maintenance and repair. There is UK Skills Council that works closely with us called SEMTA which works inside the factory. If you want to grow the economy you have to grow the people and skill-up the people within the sector.
Many governments around the world are now moving away from formal academic qualifications to vocational skills and training. There is a growing awareness of this need and India is a good example of that; it is part of the ‘Make in India’ initiative.
Q: The Automotive Mission Plan 2026 is an ambitious one to lead India to the third position in the world in passenger vehicles. Are skills the key for this?
Lonsdale: Yes, skills are the key factor. One of the greatest advantages here is that Indians have a good eye for detail to bring out quality in a cost-effective way. However, there is a skills gap that the IMI is primarily interested in filling.
Q: Are you planning to address any other markets?
Lonsdale: Yes, we want to see a larger Indian population who are better qualified and well trained. The Middle East is one of those areas now. Of course there is a counter argument going on to train the local people rather than have expatriates like Indians or Filipinos working there. But the fact is that there is a skills shortage, so outsiders, like Indians, will have good opportunities in the Gulf countries, especially those with IMI qualifications.
In South Africa we have signed a Memorandum of Agreement with merSETA which is a division of the South African government to develop a RoI (return on investment) model for skills training. Similar to the Indian government, they want to encourage employers to train more people. We also have an agreement with RMI, an employer’s organisation, to do a comparative study on motor mechanics, spray painters and repair technicians, similar to the one done in the UK. This study will highlight the RoI for employers so that they are encouraged to hire and train people to make them more productive and efficient. In some businesses RoI is close to 300 percent.
Q: Are you looking at any country in Asia?
Lonsdale: Malaysia is a high priority for IMI as a strong focus on electric vehicle qualification, and Renault has just launched its own electric car. Hybrid and electric cars are the future, especially in countries where there is a strong Green movement but safety needs to be the key.
IMI is very keen to promote professional registration in these areas, and people who meet IMI qualifications will automatically become registered professionals.
In India we hope that Indians who achieve ASDC Indian and UK standards will be included on the Professional Register. This means we are pushing standards up and helping the work force to be better qualified.
The IMI Professional Register is an international data base of over 40,000 individuals across the world, and in India we will have a professional database that is equivalent.
This means that an employer can interrogate that database to find qualified people having the necessary skill sets. We are promoting this as it is a way to help individuals as well as the employers, and ultimately the consumers, to benefit from vocational training.
Q: What about China?
Lonsdale: We continue to work in China; we have submitted a proposal to the Chinese Education Bureau to compare their conventional apprenticeship training with IMI. The Chinese have been driven by new car sales for decades. Now, new car sales are starting to plateau and new car registration in China is becoming more difficult so there is growth in used cars. This means you have to make provision for parts and skilled workers to service those vehicles.