CVW speaks to Andy Lees, Managing Director of PG Automotive, to get his insight into the relative dearth of technicians in the commercial vehicle industry.
Q. What are the reasons for the recruitment issues within the industry?
Andy Lees (AL): The explosion in the last 20 years of degree level students leaving university will certainly be a contributing factor to why there is a current dearth of new talent within the CV sector. These students are typically studying more business-focused courses, with less emphasis being placed on trades. What’s more, with constant developments in technology, social media and companies based around service provision, the automotive trade has seen a general decline in new starters at the workshop level.
The perception of the automotive trade also remains outdated; it is perceived as a place of cold, damp and dirty working environments, making it an unappealing prospect to any person other than the diehard vehicle enthusiasts. The option of working in a comfortable, warm and fashionable environment with on-site coffee shops, and brainstorming and recreational areas is just too much of an inviting proposition for the younger generation.
Q. What can businesses do to make themselves attractive to new recruits?
AL: Companies of all shapes and sizes need to engage with their target audience from a much younger age. In doing so, they can help to capture the imagination of these people. They also need to show a clear vision for their career path and the potential for constant development. Apprenticeships with funded training development plans should be offered as part of the employment package, with the investment in the individual being repaid through the longevity of their service.
Finally, businesses that don’t feel appealing to new recruits should look at their working conditions and working environment. This is a step that is rarely taken, but in doing so, enables employers to identify the areas of improvement that will help to create a more attractive place to work.
Q. What recruitment processes should a workshop have in place?
AL: Recruiting for a workshop is very black and white; qualifications, experience and length of service per job. However, one of the main elements that is so often overlooked is the cultural fit. This is something that is very much forgotten or not evaluated thoroughly enough. CV workshops looking to recruit new candidates should consider replicating some workshop activities into a discussion format to identify the candidate’s decision making skillset. By incorporating this into the interview stage, the client could then evaluate the candidate’s personality to further understand their acknowledgment of the safety, mechanical or financial impact, and assess the variations between the individuals. The employer can assess the candidate’s answers from their mannerisms, mood and temperament, which gives the hiring manager a much deeper understanding of who they are going to introduce into the existing workforce.
Q. In a service, maintenance and repair business, who should be making the hiring decision and why?
AL: This is a difficult question to answer, as you would say the most senior or qualified individual working in the same department should make the decision. However, this is not always the case, especially in an SME, where the owner is usually the only decision maker of this nature. In workshop environments where there can be multiple individuals working in close proximity, it is important to gauge the character of any potential recruits. A simple pre-appointment ‘meet and greet’ can help enormously, as a balanced workforce that get on well is a more productive one. This process might be unconventional, but if adopted, there would be more positive selections made that would lead to a better outcome for both parties.
Q. What is your advice for attracting new people into the industry? Is it something that small businesses can adopt or is it a wider governmental problem?
AL: As stated earlier, apprenticeships are the key to attracting new people to the industry, especially those from the younger generation. I believe that businesses should receive government relief on the funding programs they offer. In doing so, I am confident that this will make it easier for local and national businesses to advertise their needs, and demonstrate a path of investment in the future of their workforces. As a result, any student that is potentially interested in joining the commercial vehicle or automotive sector can do so by joining apprenticeship routes, which offer benefits such as immediate earnings and no student debt.
I also think universities should work closer with local businesses to promote the apprenticeship schemes. Universities are well placed to provide the necessary training and access to the environment that the younger generation want to be involved in, so we should be tapping into this resource.