National retail and autocentre chain Halfords has launched a recruitment drive which includes a push to attract retirees back into the workforce.
Like most other businesses in the sector, the Redditch-based company has felt the effects of the technician shortage, so it has announced a plan to recruit 1,000 people from non-traditional areas. This will include offering ‘later-life’ apprenticeships, which the firm believes is an industry first. Women and disadvantaged youngsters also to be prioritised in recruitment drive
Graham Stapleton, Halfords CEO, says he wants to use the opportunity created by a boom in demand to ‘rewire’ the company’s workforce.
“We have a big focus on people who left the workforce in recent years but are now starting to return in these tough economic times,” he said. “We want to give people the best possible route to return to work. Becoming a qualified automotive technician can be an incredibly satisfying second career.”
The business is developing what it calls its ‘Retyrement Plan‘ to make returning to work attractive. The plan includes greater flexibility, including part-time working, and opportunities for older people to complete apprenticeships. The company is establishing a training academy which is capable of turning novices into qualified technicians.
The number of women in automotive technician roles is very low across the industry. “We all need to do better, not least when you consider that many millions of our customers are women,” said Graham Stapleton, “and that means looking at what discourages women from applying for roles and taking action. That might mean introducing more flexibility; it might mean making it more appealing for young women leaving education to pursue a career in automotive.”
The firm is also keen to encourage young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to enter the industry. It has formed partnerships with two charities dedicated to getting young people into motor apprenticeships – The Palmer Foundation and First Step Trust.
“We need to be ambitious and creative in the way we go about meeting the demand for technicians,” said Graham Stapleton. “I want us to be doing more to attract ex-offenders and people leaving the military, for example”. The firm already has a bike technician training academy at Drake Hall women’s prison in Staffordshire.
Buoyed by the acquisition of major chains such as National and McConechy’s, the black-and-orange Autocentre brand launched a loyalty programme earlier in the year, and this week reported overall sales up 70% year on year.