Skills Shortage

It is time to get out of our own way and get it started

We’ve been talking about this for so long.

And it is now the perfect storm: we had a skills shortage before the pandemic, and we are emerging on the other side with a skills shortage in every industry and the numbers in auto repair and service have worsened – particularly in Queensland and Western Australia.
Auto trades is now in the top ten vacancies in most states of Australia.
Of course, we’re all talking about it. Volumes of repair, service and modification are all up on pre-COVID numbers and the new challenge is managing consumer demand. The new message to our customer base is “can you wait two to three weeks for a service? And maybe even longer for a modification?”
One thing is certain: if you just found a new staff member and alleviated your circumstances, you just created one for someone else.

Our talent pool is not growing, and word of mouth remains the number one method of recruitment. So effectively, when you are one staff member up, then someone else is now at least one down.
It is a wicked problem with no easy solution. When we post the new vacancy numbers, we always get feedback that oversimplifies the problem – “just pay them more.”

Yes, no doubt pay rates are an issue, but that’s not the silver bullet. There isn’t one. There is no easy single answer that will alleviate our shortage in the short or medium term. The ideal strategy is of course to widen the pool of people attracted to work in our industry and to keep the great talent we have now.
But the debate is often either too complicated: “we need to fix the training system first,” or it is dominated by dead-end observations that don’t lead to a solution: “it is a dirty job, everyone wants their kids to go to uni.” You’ve heard these before. Sometimes these perceptions get in our way of finding a path forward – they feel like ‘all is lost, so what’s the point.’

The point is we have a great industry with an incredible future. We are heading into the greatest technological change since we moved to the horseless carriage. It is exciting and we can, and we should, tell the workforce that this is a job full of promise.

But how should we pitch the message and where? A brand-new survey of Australian Auto Technicians is the most pragmatic and opportunistic survey of our time – its designed to pull out the best way to talk to the future workforce and what we can do right now to keep our talent. It is not going to result in any academic accolades – it is a survey designed to give us answers that we can use right now.
So, right now, please help and encourage every auto apprentice to fill it out. You probably need staff, and we need answers. It is time to get out of our own way and get it started. And if that doesn’t attract you to pump the survey, there are great prizes to be won!

To view the survey, click here.

This article was originally published in the March Australian Automotive Aftermarket Magazine.

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