The Association of Fleet Professionals (AFP) is calling on operators to "put their money where their mouths are" and support its bid to launch a fleet manager apprenticeship.
The call comes as the AFP struggles to find enough operators willing to join it in forming a Trailblazer group to create a new apprenticeship standard for fleet managers.
Up to 20 individuals are required to form a Trailblazer group to create an apprenticeship standard, working alongside the Institute for Apprenticeships. Once the content is approved, the companies involved in the trailblazer group will be expected to recruit apprentices into their organisation.
However, so far the AFP have only had eight companies sign up. Paul Hollick, AFP chair, said: "This is very much a question of employers putting their money where their mouths are.
"If the industry wants a fleet apprenticeship standard – and we believe it needs one – there must be a group of businesses willing to participate in the process and ultimately create jobs, putting in place the support, resources and mechanisms that apprentices need.”
AFP member Matt Neale, who is leading the apprenticeship drive, said: “Once the structure of the apprenticeship is finalised, the trailblazing group needs to be ready to recruit apprentices straight away.
“So far, we have eight fleet managers and their companies willing to make this pledge, but we need another 10 or more in order to get the final go-ahead for the apprenticeship. We’re therefore very keen to hear from people and their employers who are interested in taking part.
“By the time everything is hopefully in place, apprentice recruitment would need to start in 2025, so there is quite a lot of time for companies to make plans and get funding approved internally - but we do need a commitment relatively soon.”
Neale said the apprenticeship is likely to be Level 3, initially, which is designed to provide an entry point into the sector and targeting mainly school and college leavers.
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“We need administrators to start the journey into the fleet sector because they are integral to the daily running of fleets. Once they have completed their apprenticeship, they can progress towards becoming a fleet manager, which is where the AFP’s structured range of training courses can help develop individuals. This is the journey that I have taken through the industry," he said.
He warned that there could soon be a succession crisis in fleet management unless action is taken now. He said: "Currently, the issue is we just don’t have enough talent coming through at the entry level to create a succession process and replace the many experienced fleet professionals who are within a few years of retiring.
"Knowledge and experience are in danger of being lost from our industry and the apprenticeship could be an important step in preventing this," he added.
Hollick added that the creation of a fleet specialist apprenticeship standard would be a "huge boost" to the industry, particularly as there is no recognised entry route into the profession.
"Having an apprenticeship would change that and provide a structured career path into the fleet sector," he said, adding: "In the future, especially as fleet managers continue to evolve into mobility specialists, an apprenticeship could sit alongside career choices in other corporate specialisms such as human resources and procurement, providing a steady stream of talented individuals into the sector.”
Hollick said that while the AFP fully backed the idea of an apprenticeship, the creation of any new initiative needed to be almost entirely reliant on industry participation.
“The way that the apprenticeship approval process is structured means the AFP can only play an enabling role and getting people on board. Much of the work so far has been done on an individual basis by Matt Neale, working with other members of our organisation, so much kudos to him.”
Anyone interested in becoming part of the apprenticeship trailblazing group should get in touch with the AFP at firstname.lastname@example.org.