Already under pressure due to a lack of skills and resources, garages are set to buckle under the strain of ‘Super September’ as MOT test numbers soar.
Due to the pandemic, vehicle owners were given a six-month MOT extension last March. As a result, over 5 and a half million MOTs were pushed back to September 2020. Now, with the anniversary of the end of the exemption on the horizon, garages are anticipating a busy period.
MOT demand has always followed a similar pattern, with March and September traditionally seen as the busiest months for testing and servicing. While this demand has now shifted, garages can expect to see a new pattern emerge and it is essential that they plan ahead to ensure they have the manpower to manage this, as an empty ramp will have a negative impact on profit potential.
Railroaded by the pandemic, garages have taken reactive measures to manage staff shortages.
Autotech Recruit, who manages the UK’s largest network of temporary vehicle technicians and MOT testers, has reported a huge rise in demand from the industry for contractors to cover resource issues – but the supply of vehicle technicians and MOT testers to fill these positions is depleting.
The company is now calling for aftermarket businesses to take a long-term view of recruitment to negate any shortfalls and ensure they are covered during busy periods.
“We operate a large network of highly skilled freelance vehicle technicians and MOT testers who are ready to fill workforce deficits on a temporary basis,” comments Simon King, Managing Director of Autotech Group.
“However, recruiting these technicians is a case of first come, first serve, and we are increasingly seeing garages and dealerships book contractor cover for larger blocks of time which is down to the shortage of skilled vehicle technicians and MOT testers.”
Simon advises that aftermarket businesses adopt a joined-up approach to planning for resource shortages. This includes a thorough review of the trends shaping the industry. Ripples from the MOT exemption in 2020 will last for some time, and garage owners can predict a busy fourth quarter for a couple of years.
It is also worth factoring in the spike in used car sales. This market has just reported its second-best quarter on record with over 2 million vehicles changing hands between April and June this year, and the MOT and servicing knock-on effect from this will ultimately increase demand in the same period in 2022.
“Before the pandemic, we advised garages to factor in traditional peaks in demand with holiday periods and training days when planning to employ temporary resources,” Simon continues. “There are several new factors to incorporate but a pattern is emerging, and garage owners and dealership managers need to plan effectively to ensure they can fulfil demand. Having the flexibility to say yes and ensure that all bays are full could mean at least an additional £12,000 a month profit.”
As with all recruitment strategies, relying on temporary technicians to plug the gap, is a short-term solution. Aftermarket businesses need to adopt long-term measures to future-proof their business.
Earlier this year, Autotech Group launched a new division, Autotech Academy, to help newly qualified automotive students secure employment within the industry through a paid for internship. Simon concludes: “Employing an intern will help a garage fill resource gaps now while offering a long-term recruitment solution as, within just 3 to 12 months, they could have a full-time, brand loyal employee.”
"We work with the college to identify suitable interns, interview them, and equip them with a top box of tools and, if required, uniform. The only commitment from the garage is to ensure they have a mentor to work alongside the intern in the early days as this is integral to their success. It is, essentially, a grow your own concept.”