A training programme aiming to tackle a skills shortage around electric vans has been introduced by Northgate Vehicle Hire.

The firm describes its new initiative as one of the biggest and most advanced in the van industry, with training for more than 1,500 of its employees.

The plan includes at least one technician from all of Northgate’s 52 workshops completing an IMI Level 3 Techsafe EV course by the end of March, with a further 300 employees completing the course during the next 12 months.

In addition, Northgate is launching an online EV training module aimed at around 1,400 non-technical staff across its business.

Finally, the company says it is working in partnership with manufacturers to deliver additional apprenticeships, including training on EVs.

Northgate says the programme follows a warning from the IMI that an EV skills shortage threatens the UK Government’s environment policies.

IMI head of business development Steve Scofield said: “It is tremendously exciting to see that Northgate is making such a serious commitment to the EV training of its people.

“Playing such a crucial role in supporting the fleet sector and the wider business community of van users, the company is showing real leadership in being ready for the electric revolution and, based on the numbers it is training, is currently one of the biggest adopters of IMI Techsafe EV training in the LCV sector.

“The IMI has made no secret of our concern that EV training has not been prioritised to date; analysis at the end of 2020 suggested that just 5% of the technicians working in garages and dealerships are appropriately qualified to work on these vehicles.

“The scale of the Northgate commitment should, therefore, send a strong signal to the automotive sector as a whole that now is the time to get their workforce EV-ready.”

Northgate head of UK workshop operations Steve Coble (pictured) said: “The capex cost of EVs is often higher than ICE equivalents, and there is a shortage in supply. That’s why we’re acquiring a significant number of EVs, which are available for hire – enabling interested customers to make the switch, while maintaining cash flow through renting, not buying.

“However, we recognise that simply providing electric vehicles to customers isn’t enough, so we’re now playing a key role in tackling a skills shortage within the EV industry.

“We’re proud to be providing significant training on EVs – above mandatory standards. Customers will receive expert advice and practical support on charging infrastructure needs, and power supply options, and we’ll provide all the necessary support via our own people and resources.”

Coble added that Northgate was also introducing new infrastructure and tooling, servicing for EVs as well as OEH models, and flexible rental packages on all vehicles.

He said: “This totally integrated mobility approach offers a real benefit to van users in such a new and potentially costly area of development.”