The AADA has asked the Federal Government for assistance in addressing a critical shortage of skilled workers in the retail automotive industry.
The AADA recently conducted a member survey that revealed almost every new car Dealer is suffering from a shortage of skilled technicians in their workshops. The survey, which received 97 responses from members representing hundreds of dealerships, shows that Dealers are having serious difficulties finding suitably skilled or qualified technicians to fill vacant positions. For many Dealers the hiring process takes months, while some are unable to fill vacant positions at all.
AADA decided to undertake the survey after reports from members highlighting the crippling shortage of skilled technicians currently affecting the industry.
That was followed by an MTAA report titled “Directions in Australia’s Automotive Industry” which reported that across the industry, skilled labour shortages currently stand at 31,143 positions, the highest number on record. This includes a shortage of more than 17,500 light vehicle technicians in Australia.
With this data in hand, AADA is taking this issue to the Government, in the expectation that they streamline the processes for obtaining skilled immigrants and more importantly recognise automotive technicians on the Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List (PMSOL).
It is critically important that the Government recognises the shortage of automotive technicians and works with the industry to develop strategies to address the issue. One way they can do this is by including automotive technicians on the PMSOL, a list of occupations that is being prioritised during the current border closures.
AADA has written to the Immigration Minister, Alex Hawke, asking for these skills to be added to the critical skills list. We have also met with Minister Hawke and it is evident that he is aware of the shortages in our industry. He did indicate however, that even if we were successful in getting technicians onto the list, we would still be constrained by the caps on overseas arrivals currently put in place by state governments.
AADA and another industry body are meeting with the National Skills Commissioner (NSC), who is a key advisor to the Government on this issue.
At a local level, in Melbourne, we have partnered with Box Hill Institute on a scheme to provide Dealers with students who are completing a Certificate II pre-apprenticeship program and are looking to take on a full apprenticeship at a Dealership. This program has proven very successful and has so far placed over 30 apprentices.
Survey says help
In addition to the shortage of skilled technicians and apprentices locally, the issue has been exacerbated by the closure of the international borders preventing overseas workers from being able to enter the country and cutting off an important source of skilled technicians.
This issue was also raised at the May AMDC meeting with the council chairs providing feedback regarding the extent of the shortage.
- Almost every Dealer surveyed (97%) is suffering from a shortage of technicians with the majority of respondents having a deficit of 5% to 20%.
- One third (37.2%) have a shortage of skilled technicians of more than 25% of the available positions.
- The majority (51.1%) of respondents have a deficit of 5% to 20%.
The survey results also highlight a significant challenge for businesses to recruit qualified workers in the current market.
For a quarter of the Dealers (23%) it usually takes more than half a year to fill a vacant position, with another quarter stating that on average positions are filled within three to six months. Alarmingly, more than 12% are unable to fill vacant positions at all. Only a third (34%) of the Dealers looking to hire new technicians are able to fill the positions within three months.
Reports from Dealers suggest that regional areas are the hardest to find and place employees.
Most Dealers (55%) currently employ technicians from overseas and rely on skilled migrants being able to enter the country. All of them agreed that the recent COVID-19 restrictions had an impact on the availability of skilled immigrant workers. Dealers are generally open to recruiting skilled technicians from overseas but excessive costs, administrative burdens and international border closures restrict access to the international talent pool.
Eight in ten Dealers not currently employing workers from overseas said they would consider doing so in future in order to fill positions.
The majority of Dealers are trying to take on more apprentices and/or to up-skill or cross-skill existing staff to grow their technician base. Some Dealers, however, do not have enough senior technicians to take on new apprentices.
Dealers also find it increasingly difficult to find suitable candidates and retain them once they have completed their apprenticeship, as other industries (such as mining) are able to offer better salary packages.
Incentives and Increased Wages
Many businesses are considering increased pay rates or cash incentives to retain skilled staff. This however increases costs and reduces Dealership profit.
Dealerships are also looking at changing their work arrangements. While some are considering switching to a four-day week or offering additional leave to attract talent, others have to extend shifts and pay existing staff overtime to meet customer demand.
Employing overseas workers
Dealers are generally open to recruiting skilled technicians from overseas but excessive costs, administrative burdens and international border closures restrict access to the international talent pool.
Effects on business and consumers
With a lack of technicians in workshops, a significant number of Dealers have to postpone bookings potentially resulting in customers not having their cars safely maintained and serviced.
Some Dealers are also forced to reduce the number of bookings they can take and have to be selective about the type of work they can accept.
More info and all findings of the survey can be downloaded here.