Australia needs up to 19,000 more trained mechanics according to a survey by Auto Skills Australia.
And while these mechanics can’t be conjured out of thin air, some can be imported from the many advanced economies suffering from an oversupply of highly skilled, factory trained technicians due to the GFC-inspired downturn.
A notable area of concern across the Australian industry is the lack of technicians expert in fault diagnosis. This can lead to workshops wasting time groping for solutions instead of using an expert to diagnose a fault and pass the remedy onto a mechanic to fix.
Sydney-based Techs On The Move has been focusing on solving Australia’s technician shortages since 2010, sourcing qualified technicians from international markets. It is also focused on helping workshop managers increase their gross profitability, fundamental to their economic survival.
The company’s founder, Gavin Stocks, himself a skilled migrant, says workshop profitability can be boosted by having the right skill sets on hand.
“In our experience a shrewd service manager is someone who has invested in a highly skilled technician to undertake the fault diagnosis to ensure he gets the highest gross profit from his workshop team. Greater efficiency leads to greater labour recovery and thus to greater profitability,” Gavin says.
“We tend to find that sourcing experienced diagnostic technicians not only increases a workshop’s gross profit, but also provides some mentoring of less skilled technicians to elevate the overall skill level within the workshop.
“Techs On The Move has been working to combat the shortages of mechanics, technicians, auto electricians, panel beaters and painters across automotive, transport, marine, construction equipment and motorcycle industries collectively over the past three years,” he says.
“We are able to short-circuit the painful task for many workshop managers of sourcing suitably qualified technicians. Many have found out the hard way this is not their area of expertise, but it is ours.
“We know which markets to target to find the highly trained technicians that are absolutely necessary for Australia, rather than fish in unsuitable pools where the skills or working environments are incompatible with our market’s needs.
“Few markets train their technicians to the high standards that we demand in Australia. Some employers only find out too late what they think is a highly qualified candidate, is actually only suitable for routine maintenance.
“The language barrier can be an issue as well, especially if the highly trained expert has to communicate complex issues effectively with his team,” Gavin says.
In the past some employers have been gun-shy of importing a highly qualified technician due to the perception of onerous responsibilities and processes, but that’s where Techs On The Move can provide value.
“International recruitment isn’t cheap,” says Gavin.
“However, if you’re serious about up-skilling your workforce, then you’ll quickly appreciate that the upside of our service is increased labour gross profit through greater efficiency, therefore the entire activity can be self-funding, sometimes within the first month of the candidate arriving.
“Employers are no longer expected to take on as much risk of business sponsored candidates. Previously employers were required to cover private healthcare among other on-costs. Our registered migration agent works with employers in outlining the requirements in order to ensure compliance as an approved business sponsor,” he says.
While the long-term solution requires continued investment in attracting quality candidates into apprenticeships, the short-term solutions are limited.
“We have a good track record of bridging the gap to keep workshops running efficiently, and more profitably,” Gavin says.