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KPMG Enterprise has launched an initiative that will allow managers working in the car industry to undertake tertiary education in association with Western Sydney University that could lead to diplomas, advanced diplomas and could potentially become a pathway to a university degree.

Called KPMG Enterprise University Connect, the program is designed to provide transportable qualifications recognised throughout Australia within the car industry but also in other industries.

It is aimed not only at car industry individuals who wish to improve their academic skills but also at dealership owners and OEMs looking to build within their organisations a greater level of management and leadership knowledge in a field that traditionally has relied on the school of hard knocks for its expertise.

But as the industry changed with fewer family-owned dealerships and more dealerships owned by large groups with professional managers in place, KPMG has seen a need for an Australian management qualification that is recognised between employers within the car industry but also relevant to employers outside the industry.

KPMG Motor Industry Services director, Brian Fellowes, who is managing and facilitating the program, told GoAutoNews Premium that over the years many manufacturers have operated their own dealer educational programs. For example, BMW operates a dealer principal course in Germany and Mercedes-Benz and Porsche has something similar.

He said these were of great value to a family member coming through to take over the business who would go overseas for three or six months where they would get some really good business skills.

“They come back with automotive skills but they also come back with skills in understanding the financials of a business, marketing, advertising and communications.

“What is happening now, because a lot of the larger groups are buying out these family businesses, the general managers who are going into these businesses may not have the opportunity to go to these business schools that the manufacturers offer because they are an employee rather than part of a succession plan in a family company. And they are required on the job.”

Mr Fellowes said the cost of attending these courses in Europe or elsewhere could also be prohibitive.

He added that while the overseas car manufacturer courses were worthwhile in terms of their training, the certificates that were awarded from these courses may not be recognised in Australia as educational qualifications.

“So what we are offering is a full national qualification of leadership and management which is recognised by all industries,” he said.

“The courses we will be delivering are not specific automotive courses however the context is contextualised and delivered with an automotive slant.

“When we first started looking at this, people thought we were going to do an automotive diploma but we are not going to do that. If you have a specific automotive diploma, although it is still a diploma of management, the candidate may become type-cast and that makes it difficult if ever they wanted to apply for a position outside the automotive industry.”

Mr Fellowes said there are two levels of tertiary education – a university degree course and then there are vocational education training (VET) courses which are apprenticeships, diplomas and advanced diploma courses.

“There is a big push globally that is concerned with students leaving university with theoretical skills but no practical skills which is leading to increased focus on these VET courses,” he said.

“Students can complete a diploma course whilst they are still working. They can put the theory into the practice of their day-to-day running of the business. Diploma and advanced diploma courses are then a pathway into a university degree if that is where you want to go.

“There are many people working in dealerships who do not have tertiary education and are holding their positions based on their experience. So these diploma and advanced diploma courses offer them the opportunity of a pathway through to a university degree if they want one.”

Mr Fellowes stressed that the Diploma of Leadership and Management course was not a motor industry specific course.

“The delivery of the content and the assignments are all about leadership and management but we then apply what they are learning within the context of the automotive industry.

“For example, we might give a service manager an assignment on the financial KPIs (key performance indicators) in a service department but the fact is that those financial KPIs in the auto service department will be very similar to the financial KPIs in any service-related industry.

“A session on managing customer engagement would be no different between the car industry or working in Coles, for example. But what we do is conceptualise it in an automotive context.

“One of the key modules is providing leadership across the entire organisation. And you can provide leadership in Myer, Coca-Cola, the Army or a car dealership or any business. Leadership is leadership,” Mr Fellowes said.

KPMG is actively speaking to clients now.

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How the program works

THE KPMG Enterprise University Connect course is for any middle to senior manager working at OEMs and large and small dealer groups who wants to improve their skill set.

It can take anywhere from 12 months to 24 months. There are 12 modules in the diploma course. Students have to do a day of face-to-face classroom sessions followed by an assignment to complete in their own time, which is marked.

The student is then deemed competent or, if not competent, there is further discussion to point students in the right direction to achieve competence.

The 12 modules can be done one a month but most students take between 18 months and 24 months to complete.

“With work and family commitments you don’t want to put too much pressure on people,” KPMG Motor Industry Services director, Brian Fellowes said.

“Depending on the student, an assignment might take eight hours but if they are not overly strong on that topic it might take twice as long.”

The schedule is also moved around to avoid peak business periods like product launches and end of year sales drives, for example.

Class sizes are restricted from 12 to 15 students and are run from KPMG offices unless an organisation wants to use its own training facilities to keep their people onsite.

KPMG markets the course and it delivers the course with qualified facilitators. Western Sydney University works in the background providing all the compliance and regulatory paperwork and supplies the qualifications and certificates through its registered training organisation.

All the content is nationally-accredited.  

The main course is the diploma of leadership and management. This can be followed by an advanced diploma which a dealer group might want their very senior managers to complete as well.

The advanced diploma could  provide a pathway where students, based on a case-by-case basis, may be able to move on to do a university degree. Modules undertaken during the diploma courses can be credited to similar modules needed for the university qualification.

Short courses offered as well

KPMG is also offering short courses for clients who want to increase the skills of their people on leadership, for example, or managing innovation, implementation of strategic plans or business plans but don’t want all 12 modules.  

“So they don’t need to do a full-year or two-year course. So we can put the students through one or two or three or four or six individual modules. They do the same classroom training and the same assessments,” Mr Fellowes said.

“Once they are deemed competent, they don’t get a full diploma qualification, they get a statement of attainment for each of those modules. If they subsequently wanted to go on to get a full diploma they would receive credits for the modules they have already completed. This is also run under the impramater of WSU,” he said.

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By John Mellor

KPMG
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