The single best way to solve our skills shortage

Man in workshop

If you’re finding it hard to attract and keep good, skilled employees, you’re not alone.

Capricorn’s State of the Nation Report 2021 found 53% of Members are very or extremely concerned about the skills shortage, with 43% naming it a top five challenge affecting their business. The problem is particularly acute for panel and paint, tyre and suspension, and larger and franchise workshops.

The harsh reality facing the automotive industry in 2021 is that qualified technicians are in short supply and, unless we urgently work to tackle the problem now, the situation is only going to get worse. Our industry faces stiff competition for talent. How do we attract good people when, to take an example, the mining and resources industry (which is also experiencing a skills shortage and is moving into a boom phase) can offer six-figure salaries that workshops can never match?

In fact, there’s a lot we can do—both at an individual business level and an industry level. Our biggest opportunity is to encourage a new generation of talent, as this is our pipeline of future technicians, business owners, partners, and industry leaders.

But first, we’ll need a change of attitude. State of the Nation found less than half of us believe young people will find the automotive industry an attractive place to make a career. We must reframe both our thinking and our messaging around this, because automotive is a fantastic industry with lots of incredible opportunities and a really exciting future. It’s time to start talking up careers in auto and stop talking them down.

But that’s the sizzle; what about the sausage? How do we make the careers we’re selling more attractive? We can start by creating workplaces with strong and positive cultures—the kind of places young people want to work these days. Places where employees are encouraged and rewarded, and provided with incentives, opportunities and career pathways.

We can tackle pay rates, too. State of the Nation found an increase in wages and salaries in 2021 compared to 2020, but the average wage is still just $32/hr. The opportunity here is to review charge-out rates for labour. Ensuring that we are charging what our skills and experience are worth means we can pay our staff more. Maybe not triple-figure salaries, but more.

If you were ever considering bringing on an apprentice, now’s the time to do it. Not just because there’s a lot of support available from governments and training associations, but because our industry desperately needs them. We need new apprentices. Without them, this skills shortage will roll on and on and on, into the future, with no end in sight.

David Fraser

Group CEO

This article was published 06/10/2021 and the content is current as at the date of publication.