According to research from the Automotive Skills Council (ASC), the average age of a car technician is nearing 50. Andy Kemp, apprentice programme manager at the RAC, says that while such employees attend training and refresher courses, they can struggle because their basic skills might be outdated.
“This method is working up to a point,” says Kemp. “But recruiting and retaining a good technician is very difficult, so dealerships have ended up paying them more and more money.”
A shortage of technicians in their twenties and thirties has also added to the problem. “There was a time when apprenticeships in the industry became out of favour. With increasing car sales every year, we need to recruit more young apprentices,” says Kemp.
According to the National Employer Skills Survey 2003, 23% of businesses in the automotive sector suffer from internal skills shortages, suggesting that one in 10 of the total workforce is not fully proficient at their job.
Last year the RAC started an apprenticeship scheme for school leavers and younger people looking to work in the industry. Working with Kia and Hyundai, it recruited 30 apprentices. With the addition of Daihatsu for 2006, this figure has doubled.
The RAC works with the carmakers to find a suitable apprentice in their area. So far the apprenticeship retention rate has been 90%.
“We are looking to attract more brands and dealers, but we need to ensure we’re getting management of the scheme right and keeping retention high,” says Kemp.