The Australian automotive industry is experiencing the most profound skills shortage in its history.
National figures suggest the industry requires an additional 35,000 skilled workers. Skills shortages are affecting almost half of the industry, limiting business investment, employment, planning and growth.
To combat this problem and prepare for the jobs of the future, the VACC makes the following recommendations.
Promote the value of automotive apprenticeships to employers, job seekers, parents and students.
The automotive industry argues that raising the profile of automotive apprenticeships has flow- on benefits to improved commencement and completion rates for automotive apprentices.
Job seekers and school leavers need quality careers advice, with a focus on the viability, transferability and respectability of an automotive trade career.
This advice should include informing parents, teachers and other youth leaders who are the primary influencers in a student’s career choice.
Automotive apprenticeships need to be promoted as a credible career path, with vibrant new technologies emerging such as hybrid, fully electric and autonomous vehicles.
Introduce improved support measures and incentives for employers to hire and retain automotive apprentices, including those from diverse and non-traditional backgrounds.
It is crucial that the right mix of incentives is offered to encourage the hiring and retention of apprentices; for example, female apprentices in non-traditional trades.
The present system is based on incentives for businesses to hire specific candidates, usually those facing employment barriers. The automotive industry argues that the system should be broadened to encourage employers to engage across a much broader spectrum of canditates.
This would improve retention rates and levels of employment diversity across the industry.
Incentives should also be structured to encourage employers to retain and invest in their apprentices, as opposed to one-off payments for placement.
Introduce meaningful industry-led VET advisory councils and KPIs to TAFE institutes to engage with industry.
The automotive industry is disappointed at the extent of its disconnect with the TAFE sector.
The industry is calling for a skills framework that genuinely places industry at the centre of the national vocational education and training (VET) system. This should include a skills advisory council with the commensurate knowledge, affinity and understanding of the industry needed to inform the development of VET programs. This has often been outsourced to consultants who have a superficial understanding of the automotive industry, which subsequently affects the efficacy and quality of the training offered.
It is essential the TAFE sector actively engages with industry. TAFE and industry engagement was higher two decades ago, but has been declining ever since. Industry argues that TAFE institutions should have key performance indicators (KPIs) associated with their level of engagement with industry.
The role of the Australian Industry Skills Committee (AISC) appears to be largely irrelevant and cumbersome, with a focus on administration rather than strategic outcomes. It is imperative that the AISC is agile, truly reflective of industry and able to contribute to the development of genuine, industry- informed training.
Introduce tighter enforcement of VET regulation.
The auditing of registered training organisations (RTOs) against the relevant standards is inconsistent and unreliable. The automotive industry calls for more scrupulous enforcement of VET regulations, as the current approach of desktop auditing does little to properly inform policymakers of real training outcomes, which are often graduates who are ill- equipped for employment by automotive businesses.
Industry argues for the use of industry-based subject matter experts to assist with onsite audits and provide up-to-date industry knowledge. This would also assist with reinforcing industry expectations on outcomes.
Make changes to Australia’s migration program to improve its accessibility and responsiveness to better meet skill and labour needs in the automotive industry.
Skills shortages continue to affect the automotive industry, necessitating the employment of skilled migrants. Migration is a positive contributor to the Australian economy, delivering a distinct comparative advantage through the mix of younger, skilled migrants, working holiday makers and students.
However, the restriction of temporary skilled migrants in reaction to congestion and infrastructure fears is worrying. The industry requires access to a skilled labour pool to operate and grow its businesses. Further restrictions to this will have profound, negative economic repercussions.
The automotive industry recommends that the Federal Government make changes to its migration program to improve its accessibility and responsiveness to better meet skill and labour needs. These changes should include access to all skilled occupations for employer-nominated migration, ensure visa fees and charges are internationally competitive, set the cap for permanent migration based on evidence of economic benefit, and improve the processing times and affordability of the program.