Fewer than a quarter (23%) of garages in the UK have an apprentice on their books, a problem that stems from the “dirty” perception of the industry and a “lot of myths and lack of clarity”, one of the bosses at the sector’s representative body has told CAT.
According to aftermarket data firm GiPA, the push to get more apprentices into the industry is harder still, with 90% of a recent survey’s respondents confirming they find recruiting apprentices “very challenging”.
“We need to support them; they need support,” GiPA UK head Quentin Le Hetet told the IAAF’s (Independent Automotive Aftermarket Federation) conference last month.
This is a point backed by Frank Harvey, head of member services at the IGA (Independent Garage Association) the body that represents the UK near-42,000 indy garages.
“There is an array of issues as to why garages find it difficult to recruit apprentices,” he told CAT.
“It stems from 30 years ago when the apprenticeship process changed to 2013 when the new levy came in; this made everything confusing – .”
One of the key issues currently plaguing the industry, he added, was the perception of the aftermarket, especially garages.
“It is a challenge to get young people interested in the aftermarket as the perception of our industry is still one of dirty hands,” he said. “What we need to do is change this and make it a lot more attractive – there are so many jobs; just a fraction are hands-on.
“People want to see a career path, and we have that; the problem is we do not publicise it. If we do, we can make our industry so much more appealing.”
He added: “For garages it is about getting the right candidates in and briefing them on what the job will be.”
Another key issue raised is over the cost of apprentices especially as many claim their trainee workers move to rivals when their apprenticeships end and after the begrudged firm has sunk a lot of time and money into them.
But Harvey said this shouldn’t be the mindset: “Apprentices cannot be just some kind of cheap labour. If you decide to pay them minimum wage, and others offer better rates, they will leave. Pay them what they are worth to the business. We have to look at them as an investment both in time and money.
He added: “We need apprentices. They may be your business’s next MD.”
Garages also worry that using apprentices on certain tasks, especially working on cars, will either void or increase their insurance.
Harvey told CAT this is not the case: “There have also been worries about insurance issues by having apprentices on site and conducting certain jobs, but insurers have told us there is no risk. There are a lot of myths and lack of clarity.”
He added: “There is a worry that when the garage is busy to use apprentices for a menial task, but this doesn’t help them learn. Identify a mentor and use them in the tasks that they will be doing day-to-day in the future.”