Opinion: EV switch chance for garage industry to address poor pay and attract youngsters into workshops

GW columnist, Kerry Dukes explains how new and exciting technology should be used as an opportunity to make vehicle repairs and servicing more appealing to youngsters

Opinion: EV switch chance for garage industry to address poor pay and attract youngsters into workshops

Not long ago, I read an article written by another independent garage owner who was writing about the importance of investing in EV training both in terms of employer funding, and existing technicians investing their time and effort to get on board the EV train.

Kerry Dukes of Dukes Autotech, St Austell.

Although I wholeheartedly agree, I do feel that the argument overlooked a crucial problem that has faced our industry for a long time and how the EV world might help the shortage of new technicians.

In 2019 the FTA (now Logistics UK) stated that 57.7 per cent of vacancies for vehicle mechanics, technicians and fitters would not be filled in the near future, and I personally haven’t seen an improvement in the difficulty it is to find a qualified automotive technician, let alone a good one.

When the government’s ban on the internal-combustion engine comes into place, those vehicles that are currently on the road won’t cease to be.

There will be a cross over period which could last another ten years or more.

Technicians who are currently working will be forced to breaking point as they shift between old and new technologies throughout the day, particularly if there is a shortage of staff in their workplace.

So how do we solve the problem?

Well I think that new EV technology could be the answer.

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For a long time, the automotive repair sector has been a poorly respected “trade”.

Consumer behaviour and opinion towards technicians vs say electricians is like chalk and cheese.

Pay is often disproportionate to the skills required and the stigma attached to the trade due to poor practice from the minority is negative at best.

Not to mention the often grubby working conditions and the need to purchase your own hand tools, the list of negatives goes on.

So why would youngsters want to get involved with this trade?

There are so many fantastic apprenticeships available in a variety of fields now that mean the options for those who are better suited to work place learning are quite possibly the best they ever have been.

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If we don’t sell our trade to appeal to the younger generation to help tip the balance of pros vs cons, we will perpetually find ourselves with a technician shortage.

I think that electric and hybrid technology is the answer.

It’s no secret that the younger generation are far more capable when it comes to technology than those of us who didn’t grow up with smart phones and tablets.

I can hand my eight year old nephew my iPad and not only can he unlock it, but he can navigate his way around it and FaceTime his Mum without assistance.

I’ve even had to ask him to help me – it’s like children are born with a prior knowledge of how to use gadgets.

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Essentially that’s what EV technology is, a really cool gadget that just so happens to be able to take you places as well.

Not only are the younger generation more likely to find this technology more appealing than the internal combustion engine, but they are perfectly suited to it.

I think that we have a responsibility to the industry that we all love, to help fight turn the tide of the technician crisis by marketing the exciting new possibilities a career in our sector can provide young people.

We can’t do a lot, but every little helps.

Next time you are asked if you would provide a placement for work experience, why not take the opportunity to highlight the changes in our industry?

Spread the message via social media, help your local college with apprenticeship open evenings.

Related: IGA announces subsidised hybrid/EV level three training

As well as the small way we can all help, the big change that’s needed in my opinion is a shake up of the syllabus, it needs to reflect the current times and having read through it recently I’m not sure it quite cuts the mustard.

The balance of EV/hybrid vs internal combustion is still very much one sided.

Although, yes I agree that there is still worth in teaching the basics, I do feel that there is scope to push the latest technology to the forefront of the syllabus.

I am sure that will help in making the apprenticeship itself far more appealing to the younger generation.

Children are the future after all.

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