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THE automotive industry is facing the most serious skills shortage in its history, ravaged by diminished apprentice intake, COVID and business contraction.

In its manifesto that highlighted the needs of industry from a new federal government, the Victorian Automotive Chamber of Commerce (VACC) said there was a skilled labour deficit of 31,143 positions across the industry that is forecast to rise to 38,700 positions during 2022/23.

In its manifesto, the VACC said that this skills deficit demands urgent government action on two fronts:

  • a reinstatement of permanent and temporary skilled migration at a heightened level, and
  • greater training incentives and support for automotive apprentices and employers.

Scott Morrison, Australian Prime Minister
LNP: Has promised to create 800,000 new training places across TAFEs and private providers over the next five years. It will also modify its apprenticeship wage subsidy scheme, decreasing the subsidy for employers but introducing cash payments for apprentices in some high-demand industries.

It said that this includes training incentives to help build Australia’s emerging workforce on Zero and Low Emissions Vehicles (ZLEV) and assist existing technicians to upskill to maintain a zero-emissions vehicle fleet. This ties with the other important election issue of future transport technology, as reported in last week’s GoAutoNews Premium.

Getting more auto industry employees is not all about training the VACC say, it is also about the current lack of skilled workers and it negative effect on existing automotive businesses, particularly repair and service workshops.

The VACC wants a federal government to remove the applicability criteria for employer- sponsored permanent and temporary migration from the short and medium/long-term skill shortage lists. 

VACC CEO Geoff Gwilym said that this would enable migrants holding any skilled occupation to be sponsored by employers. 

“This would also mean all temporary skilled migrants would have a pathway to permanency, adding to the permanent skill base of the economy,” he said.

The Australian Automotive Dealer Association (AADA) agreed. It said Australia was in the midst of a skills crisis. 

“There are no quick fixes, but we clearly need to ensure that skilled migration becomes more responsive and more affordable for the many businesses exploring this option,” AADA CEO James Voortman told GoAutoNews Premium.

Anthony Albanese,
Leader of the Opposition of Australia
Labor: Will create 20,000 new university places with a focus on areas where there are currently skills shortages. It would also offer more enrolments for students from regional and remote areas, First Nations students and those from disadvantaged backgrounds. It has pledged to cover the cost of 465,000 TAFE spots over the next four years, which would include 45,000 new places. It will pay for 10,000 new apprenticeships for people training in renewables or other clean-energy jobs.

The VACC’s manifesto said that the Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements (BAC) wage subsidy and the Completing Apprenticeship Commencements (CAC) wage subsidy programs have also provided valuable support to businesses and group training organisations to take on new apprentices and trainees and assist towards building a pipeline of skilled workers to support the automotive industry. 

“Given the early success of these programs, it is essential the government continues with the BAC and CAC programs for a further two years,” Mr Gwilym said.

He said this will help drive industry gains into the future.

 

In its report, the chamber said the next federal government should:

  1. Remove the applicability criteria for employer sponsored permanent and temporary migration from the short and medium/long-term skill shortage lists. 
  2. Continue the Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements wage subsidy and the Completing Apprenticeship Commencements wage subsidy programs for a further two years. 
  3. Reintroduce the Federal Government’s apprentice mentoring program. 
  4. Support innovative, industry-led initiatives to increase the commencement and completion rates of automotive apprenticeships across a range of cohorts. 
  5. Introduce improved support measures and incentives for employers to hire and retain automotive apprentices, including those from diverse and non-traditional backgrounds. 
  6. Ensure equal representation for automotive on newly established skills councils. 

MTA Institute (QLD): Hybrid electric vehicle course

Skilled worker shortage will also affect Australia’s slow, but increasing, move to EVs.

The Skills for Australia consultation is the result of heightened demand for skills and training associated with service and repair of battery EVs.

The nationwide industry consultation, led by PricewaterhouseCoopers, identified a skills gap involving the diagnosis and maintenance of EV powertrains in passenger, light commercial and heavy vehicle categories. 

The VACC said that a Certificate III in Electric Vehicle Technology (AUR32721) has been developed to provide future technicians an accredited training and apprenticeship pathway. 

This qualification reflects the role of individuals who service, diagnose, and repair battery electric vehicles and components in the automotive service and repair sector. 

“Currently, the automotive service and repair sector lacks the necessary skills needed to service and repair zero emission vehicles,” the VACC said.

“Only 359 automotive technicians have completed basic ZLEV training in Australia. Adding to the problem is that accredited ZLEV training is only available in South Australia, Queensland and Western Australia. 

“This makes it difficult and costly for employers in other jurisdictions to access this training and upskill their staff. 

“The next Federal Government must provide appropriate funding and support to incentivise the delivery of accredited ZLEV training by registered training providers in all jurisdictions, and reduce the costs associated with upskilling existing technicians and new apprentices in ZLEV training.”

By Neil Dowling

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