THE NEXT BIG CHALLENGE
With the Mandatory Data battle seemingly won, the Aftermarket industry’s next fight will be tackling skill shortages
Addressing the issue of skills shortages is looming as the next big challenge for the Automotive Aftermarket.
AAAA Director of Government Relations and Advocacy, Lesley Yates, says that the top concern on every recent survey that the AAAA has commissioned is the problem of not enough skilled technicians to fill available positions.
Lesley led a panel discussion at the recent AAA Expo to address the issues surrounding skills shortages.
She explained that the skills shortage is an industry wide issue and that on average every automotive business in the country has at least one vacancy.
“It is particularly bad in WA and Queensland. Automotive jobs are constantly the most advertised in WA and Queensland, which is good data that we can use to show Governments because we have a hard time convincing them that we have a problem in our industry,” she said.
David Fraser, Group Chief Executive Office of Capricorn, told those in attendance that they can download the State of the Nation Report off the Capricorn website for useful data on the topic.
“Over 2,000 people participated so it is a good sample of the workshop community. It revealed that 53 percent of mechanical workshops are saying that this is the number one issue in their business today, that is up from 44 percent in 2020. There is a huge leakage of skilled labour and businesses are struggling to attract new talent into their businesses,” he explained.
“That means businesses are having to turn work away which has a significant impact on profitability. It is causing the business owner to have to do more himself or herself.
“It also means that your existing employees become fatigued and that leads to other issues around mental health.”
James Voortman, CEO of Australian Automotive Dealer Association (AADA), does not always see eye-to-eye with the AAAA, but skills shortages is one thing that the two organisations are united on.
“Statistics we have show that 97 percent of dealers are suffering with a shortage of technicians,” James said.
He indicated that it is taking between six and 12 months for his members to fill those positions.
“I think that it is important to note that we are not the only industry going through this and that makes this skills crisis worse because we are competing with other industries,” James said.
“We are really going to have to do a better job of telling governments not only how important technicians are to this industry but also to the country and to the safe fleet that we pride ourselves on.”
Adam Pay, Managing Director of MyCar, believes that lack of government action around skills shortages is not the only factor contributing to the problem.
“We talk about under investment from a government, but we have kind of done this to ourselves a little bit too,” Adam said.
“I have heard workshop owners actually ask the question, what if I pay an apprentice and they are not productive for the first six months… I just can’t believe that attitude.”
He said the MyCar staff turnover rate usually runs at around 28 percent and at the moment it is in the mid-30s, with a vacancy rate of 10 percent.
He stressed that stealing technicians from opposition businesses was not a long-term solution to the problem.
“Every time we hire a technician at MyCar somebody else, somewhere is hurting and that is not great for the industry,” Adam said.
He said that while the industry is adaptive and able to cope in the short-term, he sees it coming to a head down the track.
“Without a full complement of staff, we struggle to reach customer expectations and the team members that are left in store are feeling the pain every day. It’s not sustainable. I have seen statistics that show there are 27,000 more positions available than there are skilled people.
“It’s going to take all of us in the industry to do something about it; it is not just a MyCar issue. If we all do something about it then we will make a difference.”
All of the panelists believe that education and changing the perception of the industry to an exciting career path is a big part of the answer in the long-term.
“The future is about EVs and computers. We need to get the future generation and their Mum’s and Dad’s to understand where the industry is going and why it is such an exciting time to be a part of it,” David Fraser said.
Adam Pay says it is also about making sure staff are adequately rewarded, which means you must be charging your customers the correct rates.
“It comes down to educating business owners to make sure that they are running profitable businesses… then they can pay competitive rates and they should, because if they don’t someone else will,” Adam said.
James Voortman says the solution is not just up to governments.
“Businesses themselves need to be proactive and work with their communities and local schools to encourage the next generation to get excited about the industry,” James concluded.
For more information, visit www.aaaa.com.au