The skills shortage has been plaguing the automotive industry for several years. The impact of Brexit and the pandemic has undeniably worsened the situation, and neither the independent garage sector nor dealer groups have been immune to the skills shortage.
According to recent surveys, majority of organisations are now putting recruitment and training into higher gear. For instance, the National Franchised Dealers Association’s (NFDA) HR Survey revealed that over 75% of dealerships were looking to recruit vehicle technicians in the latter part of the year.
But for a recruitment plan to be effective, an automotive business, regardless of size, needs to take a fully rounded approach. As a specialist in the creation of employment and training solutions for the automotive industry, we believe that there are four key steps to tackling the skills shortage, and these should underpin your organisation’s annual recruitment strategy.
The general pay scales across the automotive sector, regardless of skill, position, or job title are very low. An experienced vehicle technician can expect to earn anywhere between £26,000 to £30,000 per year (the average in the UK), if they’re lucky. Considering the high level of skill and knowledge required to work on the technological vehicle masterpieces of today, employers need to seriously consider increasing the pay offering attached to a position. Only then will they attract the right level of candidate.
Apart from offering fair salaries, and perks and benefits that make a business stand out from its competitors, most automotive businesses should focus on improving the speed and quality of their recruitment practices. They should also consider working with a provider who can take on the entire responsibility as this can significantly streamline recruitment efforts and cut unnecessary overheads.
A blended workforce will likely prove the most profitable solution, combining the expertise of permanent staff who know the business, with outsourced temporary workers who can cover any shortfalls in labour or skills. Having a good understanding of the periods of time when a business may need additional support is vital and will enable them to plan and source additional resources well in advance. Undoubtedly, as a result of the pandemic, these business peaks have taken on a new pattern, but garage owners should now have a good idea of this and be able to plan for the year ahead. Whether it’s to provide cover for high demand peaks, for a vehicle technician or MOT tester’s prearranged absence, or to find expertise that permanent staff do not yet have, highly skilled temporary vehicle technicians are in high demand so planning ahead and early booking is advisable.
Ultimately, empty ramps can have a negative impact on the bottom line – to the tune of £1,800-£3,000 per week for some national brands.
Once employed, training should be a critical part of an annual strategy. Vehicle technicians need continual upskilling to ensure they have the relevant ability to service the vehicles of today - from ADAS to EV. It’s also worth noting that technicians seeking new employment frequently cite lack of training as a reason for leaving a position. Its increasingly becoming an employment package must-have, and garage owners need to ensure that training is offered.
Due to the fast-paced progression of technology, there is no such thing as a fully qualified vehicle technician anymore and continuous upskilling should not be a matter of choice, but a priority. Companies who invest in the ongoing training of their technical staff and offer opportunities for progression, are not only more likely to attract and retain talent but will also gain a competitive edge over other businesses.
The automotive industry was one of the worst-hit sectors for apprentice recruitment in 2020. In the first quarter of the 2020/21 academic year, there was a reported drop of 63% compared with the same period the year before.
This is a worrying figure, and it is vital that investing in the development of young technicians plays a fundamental role in shaping a recruitment strategy as they are critical to sustaining the future of the industry. So many new industries, including computing and gaming, are now competing with the motor trade when it comes to attracting new talent. As an industry, we need to up the ante and clearly demonstrate to the younger generation the fast technological transformation of the sector and create new opportunities to harness talent at an early age.
Every year, up to 10,000 students leave college with a Level 3 automotive qualification but they struggle to secure a role within the industry. This is largely down to pay and also the fact that garage owners simply believe that they do not have the time to train a young person without practical experience. More new initiatives, like Autotech Academy's internship programme, should be created for these newly qualified students. If their potential is spotted early, they can be shaped into the ideal employee, helping future-proof your business and the industry..