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'Shocking' automotive skills shortage affects all levels of seniority

Lynda Ennis, founder at Ennis & Co

Automotive businesses face an unprecedented skills shortage across all levels of seniority, according to a new report from Ennis & Co.

Shortages of digital and data experts are particularly severe, as automotive and mobility companies experience competition from other sectors for the same ‘hot’ skills. Manufacturers are also facing a tough battle to meet their engineering needs, while service and repair technicians are reported to be in extremely short supply.

Lynda Ennis, founder and CEO of Ennis & Co, said: “As a global executive search company specialising in automotive and mobility, we know all about the challenges of finding the right senior leadership talent for our clients and we also have observed how the competition for skills at all levels has intensified in recent years.

“However, we were actually quite shocked by the scale of the problem, as revealed in our interviews with business leaders. The reality is that skills shortages are so deep and widespread that there is no magic answer to fix the problem.

“Nor is the situation going to get any easier, with the automotive sector predicted to face a global shortage of 2.3 million skilled workers by 2025 and 4.3 million by 2030."

In response, many businesses have resorted to paying more to fill vacancies by offering higher starting salaries, signing-on bonuses or bonuses paid at the end of probation periods. One manufacturing leader revealed that starting salaries for engineers had risen by as much as 50 per cent, while a senior executive at a retail group said a rival had poached their workshop technicians by offering them a £9,000-a-year pay rise.

In April, it was revealed that the number of job vacancies in the automotive sector had risen by 40% in the first three months of 2022, reaching a five-year high.

Advertised salaries for vehicle technicians increased by more than 8% year-on-year. and data from the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) also shows a more than 7% increase in advertised salaries across all automotive roles compared to March 2021.

The IMI’s analysis of job postings data for all automotive occupations, for March 2022, shows a 51% increase in postings year-on-year.

“The situation is so serious and business critical that is clear that resourcing strategy must be given the highest priority by businesses, including being managed at boardroom level, with the appropriate commitment, investment and accountability," Ennis added.

The research project, Skills Evolution Roadmap 2025, asked business leaders not only to identify the key skills shortages they were facing but to discuss the strategies they were pursuing to address the problem.

Many reported a significant expansion of entry-level recruitment in the shape of apprenticeship programmes and graduate trainee schemes, while there is an increased focus on workplace culture, including diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiatives, to attract and retain staff. Remote and hybrid working is now widespread across the industry.

Ennis said: “It is clear from our research that there are already some excellent resourcing initiatives taking place within the industry and it is very positive that diversity and inclusion is now a cornerstone of recruitment strategy.

“I believe there is potential to take this further, particularly in the area of more mature employees, who have been so often neglected in the D&I debate. People in this demographic – mainly the over-50s but sometimes even people in their late 40s – have the choice whether to work or not but offer advantages of experience, maturity and commitment, particularly in an environment that embraces part-time and flexible working.”

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