The automotive industry skills shortage has been exacerbated by a lack of young talent entering the sector and an increasingly green agenda driving up the number of alternative fuelled vehicles (AFV) onto UK roads.
Here Simon King, managing director of Autotech Recruit, discusses the automotive sector's recruitment challenges and some of the strategies that can be employed to overcome them.
For the automotive industry, retention has been a problem for some time and attracting the right talent is an ongoing issue.
We are starting to see salaries rise, particularly for vehicle technicians, and, whilst this does put additional pressure on employers, it is incredibly positive and long overdue.
As the saying goes, money talks, but people, especially those with sought after skills, recognise their worth and the industry needs to keep up with new technology, while exploring all potential avenues, to ensure they attract and keep hold of the right people.
Candidate driven market
Last year was a candidate’s market and 2023 is likely to follow suit. People are seeking a greater level of flexibility and employment on their own terms. If they don’t get it in their current job, they are very likely to look elsewhere, and retention rates have become a real problem for most organisations.
According to the Future World of Work Report 2023, the structure of the UK workforce is changing profoundly.
Flexibility is the key driver of this change, and 65% of businesses surveyed revealed they understood the need to play the ‘flexibility game’ to attract the right people as it opens them up to a much wider pool of talent.
But flexibility isn’t a one size fits all solution, and of course, for the automotive industry, working from home really isn’t an option.
It may be choosing the hours they work and when they work to strike a better work life balance. We have contractors working for us who prefer seasonal work so they can spend time indulging their hobbies or working on their other side businesses.
People want greater choice today. It’s why there are now over 4.2 million self-employed workers in the UK.
The freelance revolution
Sparked by the financial crisis and the unemployment that followed, freelancing became one of the biggest trends of the 2010’s.
At the time, it was a necessity for many but, when the pandemic hit, it became a choice. People had a taste of hybrid working and they wanted more of it.
For employers, 64% say that using contractors helps them to address the skills gap, while enabling them to turn the tap on and off as needed when it comes to specialist support.
This sentiment fits the automotive industry exactly, and it’s one we have been beating the drum about for over a decade. Using temporary vehicle technicians and MOT testers to cover resource gaps, whether brought on by sick leave, holiday or a lack of available talent, is a solution automotive bosses are tapping into time and again.
These contractors are in charge of their own destiny, they know that training and being skilled in the latest automotive technology will help them remain agile and employable.
It’s widely known that the automotive industry is fishing for talent in a rapidly depleting pool.
While there are initiatives in place to upskill existing workers and harness a new generation, we also need to look at those who left the sector and lure them back in.
So many new contractors who join our ranks left permanent automotive employment to work on wind farms or re-trained as lorry drivers, ‘we wanted to give the automotive industry one last chance,’ is a familiar cry.
We need to reach out to the people who did leave and sell the industry to them and the opportunities which now exist, including the potential to contract.
Your people are your best advocates and it’s likely that they will no ex-automotive employees so use them to pass the message on.
It’s an exciting time within the sector and, for those who are prepared to train and bring themselves up to date to service and repair vehicles today, the opportunities are limitless.
Your industry needs you back
Of course, aside from tempting people back from other sectors, there is another cohort of people that the industry could be tapping into.
Technicians who, faced with the evolution of vehicles, opted to retire early rather than upskill, are now starting to return to working and flexibility is key.
Rising inflation, and the cost of living crisis is fuelling a reversal of the Great Resignation, people of retirement age who are using flexibility to return to the workforce in ways that work better for them.
We need to reach out to these people and bring them back into the automotive industry.
While contracting is undeniably on the rise, for many, job security can be a real deal breaker. With mortgages to pay and mouths to feed, particularly during the cost of living crisis, taking the plunge to become a contractor can be daunting and bring a host of concerns.
It’s why we have recently enhanced our offering to introduce ATech and ATester. A unique blend of freelancing, while having the assurance of full-time employment with guaranteed work.
When we started the business back in 2010, it was a contractor revolution. Freelancing within the automotive industry was relatively unheard of, today while our network continues to grow, demand is outstripping supply and the contracts are becoming more long term.
Any fears of not having enough work are unfounded. But to appeal to more people and reach out to those who left the sector in a bid to entice them back, we are offering full-time permanent employment, with all the benefits that entails, and the variety of work that comes with being a freelancer.
From the more experienced to the recently trained, to creating opportunities for contractors and permanent staff, there are so many routes to attracting talent which needs to be explored and employers should be exhausting each of them.
But thoughts also need to be given over to the line of communication used when reaching these audiences.
Harnessing the power of technology
For years, we have talked about the rapid digitalisation of the automotive industry but using automation to recruit is a relatively new phenomenon.
If used effectively though, recruitment technology can significantly cut down on repetitive, time-consuming work, affording the employer time to build a better rapport with potential candidates.
Through intelligent systems, employers can widen the net and reach a greater audience through a multitude of channels, online job boards, databases and social media platforms, giving employers great choice, while enabling them to filter through and drill into the right talent.
While recording and monitoring the progress of potential candidates, through the power of tech employers can also complete the initial screening process, schedule interviews, and handle background checks – all in real time.
There are interminable routes available today to attracting and gaining talent, employers just need to broaden their reach and tap into the technology available to them, you never know, these incremental changes made across the whole industry might just start to fill the skills gap void.
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