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Skills Shortages Getting Critical For Panel Beaters

Skills Shortages Getting Critical

Skills Shortages are Getting Critical compared to 2017, a 10.6 percent reduction. For Australia’s two largest states, however, the situation is considerably worse. In Victoria, there were almost 1,200 light vehicle mechanical apprentices commencing in 2017, compared to 760 in 2020, a drop of 35.6 percent. New South Wales has also experienced a 14.2 percent decline over the same period.

VACC Senior Research Analyst Steve Bletsos breaks down Australia’s current apprenticeship and traineeship numbers.

Apprenticeships and traineeships have had a long history of creating a pipeline of skilled labour for Australia’s automotive industry. However, despite the Federal Government’s financial support and incentives in recent times, it is disappointing to see the number of apprentices and trainees commencing annually has fallen substantially across key automotive trades. This is especially the case in Victoria, where some apprenticeships appear to be in free fall.

The latest statistics from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) show a significant decline in apprentice commencements over the past four years. Notwithstanding the
influence of COVID-19, nationally, there were approximately 500 fewer light vehicle apprentices that commenced in 2020.

The data shows an even more dire scenario for apprentice panel beaters and vehicle spray painters. Nationally, annual commencements of apprentice panel beaters have fallen by 31.1 percent since 2017, while vehicle spray painters have fallen by 25.6 percent. At a state level, the data shows that in Victoria, apprentice panel beater commencements have fallen from 203 in 2017, to only 80 in 2020, a massive reduction of 60.6 percent.

Certain segments within the automotive repair sector experience varying degrees of impact.

Commencements of apprentice vehicle spray painters in Victoria have fallen by 45.7 percent over the same period. While not all states have experienced such dramatic falls, the declining number of new apprentices across these key automotive trades, and within our largest training markets, is a major concern. In fairness, not all automotive occupations have suffered quite as badly. For example,heavy vehicle apprenticeship numbers have been relatively stable over this period, even exhibiting a slight growth in some states and territories. However, this is little consolation given their levels are still largely insufficient in addressing
current skills shortages.

For decades, the industry has argued there are not enough people entering automotive trades and that a skills crisis is imminent, and this is largely supported by the data. Contextually, there have been
approximately 1.4 million vehicles added to Australia’s roads over the past four years, yet the quantity of people entering automotive trades, especially in our two largest states, has declined substantially.

Under this scenario, it was highly unlikely productivity increases could avert the effects of such a large increase in the fleet of vehicles on roads over such a short time frame, and that a skills crisis was largely
inevitable without a major injection of skilled migrant labour.

It is also undeniable that the economic impact of COVID-19 over the past 18 months has had a distortionary effect on the demand and supply of apprentices in automotive, as well as many other industries. In this respect, Federal Government incentives such as the Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements wage subsidy scheme, while critically important, have not had the desired impact to attract enough new apprentices
into the automotive industry.

This makes it all the more imperative that a serious boost to skilled permanent and temporary migration become a national priority for government.

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Published with permission from AUSTRALIAN WORKSHOP MANAGER  www.aaen.com.au

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