Simon King, managing director of Autotech Recruit discusses the challenges the automotive industry is facing when recruiting.
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.
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.
The structure of the UK workforce is changing profoundly. Flexibility is the key driver of this change, and 65 per cent 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 2010s. 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 per cent 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.
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.
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.
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.