There is a shortage of ‘just qualified’ skilled technicians within the commercial vehicle servicing industry right across Britain, and according to one truck dealer, it’s the industry’s own fault.
Managing director of truck dealerships, Guest Truck and Van and Sherwood Truck and Van, Rob Spittle, which operates 13 servicing locations across the Midlands, East Anglia and Yorkshire said: “Our company has always employed apprentice technicians. We believe that the best way to learn a trade is on the job. There’s no substitute for combining formal training with the practical, everyday skills that you can pick up in a busy workshop.
“Over the years we have trained many hundreds of apprentices, some of whom are celebrating 30 or more years with us. But in the most recent recession, we did something in line with what the rest of the industry was doing. We suspended apprentice recruitment, and now we’re paying the price with a shortage of younger technicians within our own business and right across the board.
“If we had continued to recruit at our usual rate, we would now have more than 30 extra technicians working with us now. The situation will take time to remedy as each apprentice needs to work under the close supervision of a senior technician, which prevents any of our branches taking on more than one or two apprentices at a time.
“In the West Midlands it can be difficult to recruit into the commercial vehicle sector, with some prospective apprentices preferring the possibly more glamorous employers such as Jaguar Land Rover, who have their own successful training schemes.”
The government is introducing an apprenticeship levy in April, which is designed to create three million places for apprentices and will be paid for by employers in England with a payroll of more than £3m and charged at a rate of 0.5% of their annual pay bill. This will affect the Guest Group which will be contributing in excess of £35,000 towards the scheme.
“We have yet to see whether the new levy will end up cost neutral to us, or will result in paying more than we already do for our own apprentice programme. But the most important thing is that apprentices are encouraged to come into automotive engineering and that young people take the opportunity to begin rewarding and in the case of our company, long lasting careers.”
Quoted in The Guardian, Robert Halfon, the apprenticeships and skills minister, said the levy would help to ensure “people of all ages and backgrounds have a chance to get on in life”.
Information on apprenticeships can be found on the government website at https://www.gov.uk/apprenticeships-guide/overview and anyone interested in working for Guest Motors should contact their local branch.