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THE AUTOMOTIVE industry is rapidly transitioning towards a more energy efficient and digitally enabled future. It is an exciting period but one which is blighted by challenges, particularly for those tasked with vehicle repair and maintenance.
An aging vehicle technician demographic combined with a lack of investment in technical training and the recruitment of young talent has led to a shortage of skilled staff throughout the sector. According to the Institute of the Motor Industry, by 2031, 160,000 automotive vacancies will need filling.
In a bid to support the automotive aftermarket, one Milton Keynes-based company continues to spearhead recruitment and training initiatives to help future proof the sector.
Linford Wood-based Autotech Group was established in 2010 as a recruitment company after the founders, who originate from the automotive industry, spotted a gap in the market for temporary vehicle technicians and MOT testers to plug resource gaps.
Today, the company operates the UK’s largest network of temporary vehicle technicians and MOT testers, filling over 350,000 hours for the country’s automotive aftermarket last year alone. While its recruitment offering still remains strong – picking up a national recruitment award just last month -Autotech Group has created three additional company divisions – Academy, Training and Connect – over the years, each directly responding to the evolution of vehicles and the challenges brought on by the automotive skills shortage.
“As a business, we have never shifted our focus away from the automotive aftermarket,” says Simon King (main picture above), interim CEO of Autotech Group. “We take the issues and challenges faced and create counteractive solutions to ensure the industry has a strong pool of talent to sustain it well into the future.”
Unequivocally, one area which requires a greater level of skill and education is electric and hybrid vehicles. Today, one in every 32 cars now comes with a plug, with 1.1 million electric cars now in use on UK roads and, despite the government’s recent deferment of the internal combustion engine ban, this adoption sees little signs of slowing down.
While the number of EVs increase, the number of skilled vehicle technicians able to repair and maintain them is not keeping pace. “Simply put, there are more electric vehicles on the road today than there are people trained to work on them,” says Simon. “And EV training should not just be ringfenced to vehicle technicians. Anyone who works or operates an electric or hybrid vehicle needs educating, not only for their safety, but to understand how to drive them efficiently.
“While our head office has an EV Training Suite, our Autotech Training team covers many miles to deliver vital training, working with fleet companies, local authorities and the emergency services, who are electrifying their fleets.”
Industry needs young technicians
THREATS of cyber attack is one of the biggest risks currently facing the automotive industry today.
“Technology has transformed mobility, from software-defined vehicles to connected cars, but this is leaving the industry, particularly independent garages, an increasingly attractive target for cyber criminals,” says Autotech Group’s interim CEO Simon King.
“At the very least, to mitigate risk, garages need to engage in building a robust, digital infrastructure. Our Connect division was created to help garages and aftermarket businesses understand and mitigate the risk of cybercrime while helping them to effectively implement technology and Assisted Reality to improve efficiency and overcome skills gaps.”
There is little doubt that the automotive industry is at the forefront of technology and innovation and the perception of an oily, dirty trade is far removed from the reality of today. The industry, which is today competing for talent against computing and gaming sectors, needs further work to reach a new generation of vehicle technicians.
Simon says: “Our Academy division was formed to build a bridge between FE colleges and automotive employers, creating a new route to employment for newly qualified Level 3 automotive students through a paid internship. Too many were being lost to other industries after completing their studies and it is a loss the sector simply cannot afford.”