During a webinar held on November 29, AIA Canada presented the key findings of a study commissioned from Ernst & Young (EY Canada) on the workforce situation in the automotive service and repair sector.
This study is based on a survey sent to industry members, enriched by interviews with representatives of players in the Canadian automotive aftermarket.
Presented by Mauricio Zelaya of EY Canada, and commented by Alana Baker, Vice President of Government Relations and Research for AIA Canada, the results point to strong evidence of a shortage of qualified mechanical and collision technicians in independent businesses.
This situation worsened between 2021 and 2022, when the number of positions to be filled doubled.
The gradual shift towards electric vehicles also indicates an increase in demand for technicians able to work on these vehicles.
At the same time, the report shows a significant drop in technical school enrolments, with the biggest decline in 30 years.
Owners of mechanical and collision shops report a 65% increase in departures from their businesses in 2022.
The study states that 46% of these departures are justified by better wages and conditions elsewhere. An unfavourable perception of the automotive aftermarket accounts for 20% of departures.
Breaking down barriers
As Zelaya details, the main barriers to attracting and retaining technical staff in these workshops, in addition to those mentioned, are shortcomings in training programs, access costs, disinterest in the trades, qualification needs and the lack of diversity and inclusion in the sector.
As far as departures are concerned, they mainly affect young people. Workers aged 18 to 24 account for 56.2% of migration to other industries. The 25 to 54 age bracket accounted for 28.4% of departures.
“We can see that sectors such as construction, mining and gas are very attractive,” explains the expert. “Those wishing to stay in the automotive sector are more likely to opt for parts stores or dealership service departments.”
He also notes that the transformation of the automotive aftermarket sector, particularly with electric and autonomous car technologies, will contribute to making repairs and maintenance more complex, requiring workers to have superior skills.
“On the other hand, this evolution of the automotive field also presents itself as a great opportunity to show our sector in a new light.”
Working with governments
Faced with these facts, AIA Canada intends to pursue its efforts on several fronts to have this shortage recognized by government authorities, while continuing its initiatives to promote the automotive trades.
“We have solid results here that will support us in our requests to governments to tackle these barriers,” says Baker.
The report mentions the need to reduce the cost of access to technical employees in automotive mechanics, when new technicians have to acquire their own tools, for example.
It also recommends closer collaboration between the government, automotive aftermarket representatives and training centres to offer real career opportunities in the industry.
And finally, the report stresses the importance of optimizing information on the opportunities offered by the aftermarket, with the aim of favourably bending the way it is perceived.
The study will be available on the AIA Canada website on December 5.