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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2001, MCB UP Limited
The quality of car servicing and repair should be improving. A revolutionary method of testing the knowledge of vehicle technicians working towards new national qualifications, via the Internet, was launched earlier this year by the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI).
Aimed at driving up standards of workmanship through advances in training, the Institute's on-line assessment system allows candidates undertaking technical National and Scottish Vocational Qualifications (N/SVQs) to be tested on their knowledge and diagnostic skills in a range of disciplines on-line. This new examination element complements an assessment process in the workplace, before a qualification is awarded.
Following over 12 months' development, in association with specialists, Innovative Technologies in Education (ITE) and Click2Learn, the system is accessed via the Institute's Internet home page, and features a three-stage security process. The tests are presented in an easily navigable multiple choice format, and all questions and answers are randomised, so that every candidate sits a "unique" exam, which is timed. This is instantly marked and the result is automatically logged by the IMI. A rolling database of questions ensures that all tests reflect continual advances in technology.
Some 200 colleges and training organisations throughout the UK are already accredited by the IMI to conduct the new tests, which form part of new government funded technical N/SVQs, leading to a nationally recognised certificate from the Institute. These relate to auto electricians, body fitters, repairers and refinishers, light and heavy vehicle technicians, motorcycle technicians, vehicle valeters and vehicle inspectors.
The need for more training was one of five key recommendations in last year's report by the Office of Fair Trading, following its inquiry into car servicing and repair standards. The IMI believes its new approach will encourage employers, when recruiting technicians, to seek the N/SVQ as a national benchmark of competence. This, in turn, indicates to consumers that employees are properly qualified.
Similarly, the IMI anticipates that the depth of knowledge necessary to complete the new tests successfully will require high-calibre trainees, capable of dealing with the complex technology and systems inherent in new vehicles. The Institute spearheaded a major initiative at the 2000 British International Motor Show, called Career Focus, designed to encourage high-achievers into the retail motor industry. Research indicates that there is a shortfall of some 5,000 apprentice technicians.
Peter Creasey, the Institute's chief executive, said: "With the quality of vehicles at an all-time high, it is the quality of service which is under scrutiny by consumers. The Institute's radical new approach to training goes a long way to raising skill levels and we believe it helps both trainees and employers better understand the value of qualifications".