“Across the industry, whether you are an OEM, or in the aftersales market, we all have a challenge of getting skilled people in. The talent pool we are all fishing in is getting shallower”. These are the words of Andy Turbefield, Head of Quality at Halfords Autocentres.

Andy will join a host of industry experts as national training provider, Remit Group hosts an employer engagement event for the automotive sector next month.

Held at the IMI, the event is entitled, the Big Skills Debate, preparing talent for the future. It will address talent shortages in the industry, current and predicted skills gaps and the challenge faced by manufacturers, dealerships and independent garages alike of enabling staff with the techniques, behaviours and knowledge to keep pace with the technological advancements the sector is experiencing.

Andy’s passion for attracting and retaining the right level of talent, will focus on the cross-sector challenge of changing perceptions, of parents, schools and future technicians.

“School-age children need good advice. Parents are pushed to send their children to university, but that isn’t always the best option. Notwithstanding the fees and costs, many more practical routes through college or apprenticeships would be a better fit, than a three-year course”, says Andy.

“The skills they learn as an apprentice, the experience they get of doing the job, often makes them more work-ready and employable. It can be a much more suitable route than taking on a more theoretical qualification that doesn’t match their choices or thoughts when they started.”

Andy reflects that this career advice starts with both parents and schools. “Historically, schools and careers advisors that were presented with a student that had poor maths and English grades would direct them towards the construction or automotive industry. This just isn’t an accurate portrayal anymore.”

The news that the Government has brought forward the ban on the sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid vehicles to 2035 is no doubt a step forward in the efforts to improve air quality and tackle the threat of climate change, but it will also bring fundamental change to the automotive retail sector, and specifically the businesses that service and maintain vehicles.

Currently just 5% of the sector is appropriately qualified to work on electric vehicles so for the next 15 years the race is on to get the rest of the workforce up to speed. This represents a massive challenge to ensure not only are there sufficient technicians qualified, but that they have the necessary equipment and environment to work on electrified vehicles safely.

As technology improves, so the skills needed in technicians has changed and with it their working conditions.

“We need to remove the view that parents have of a technician working under the arches, in dirty conditions, rolling around the floor. The truth is very, very different. The automotive sector is changing dramatically.”
“The technology of tomorrow, which is actually here today means that electric vehicles, the fastest growing sector in the industry have no oil filters or sparkplugs and access to manufactures’ database to diagnose faults is essential. Technicians need good English, good maths and good IT skills to do the job.”

This change in perception of the automotive sector isn’t reserved for traditional candidates as Andy calls for a need for more diversity in the industry.

“We have some wonderful examples of female CEOs, but we know that their route would have been much harder than a mans”, says Andy. “Attracting females into our industry has to be our priority”.

He continues, “Where are the next generation of female CEO’s, dealer principals or general managers coming from? If we are to see more females in leadership roles, we need to attract more diversity into the workforce, so we need to make the industry an attractive place to work, and for our customers too”.

If you would like to know more about this employer engagement event, visit https://remit.co.uk/the-big-skills-debate/