There’s a solution to the shortage of workers in the U.S. automotive industry, but employers may assume it’s too hard to make this option work.
There are job vacancies in automotive manufacturing, in parts making and at dealerships, even though 8.4 million Americans were registered as unemployed in August. Another 5.7 million not in the labor force may currently want a job, yet weren’t actively looking in August, when these latest Bureau of Labor Statistics figures came out.
But do you question the caliber and “appropriate fit” of candidates applying for roles in your workplace? There’s another cohort I’d like to bring into your spotlight.
Your Talent Pipeline Hiding in Plain Sight
People with a disability may well be hiding in plain sight of the automotive industry for its talent pipelines, such as through apprenticeships and other skills-based programs.
People with a disability are the most underemployed segment of the U.S. population. Before the pandemic, less than one-fifth of people with disabilities were in the workforce compared to two-thirds of people without a disability.
The contemporary social model for inclusion highlights that workplaces present barriers to accessibility for people with a disability. That’s whether they are workers, suppliers, customers, clients or visitors.
Inclusion benefits everyone if you take an “accessibility lens” to your premises; it’s a boost for your market and talent pipeline. Firms in the top 20% for workplace disability inclusion achieved 28% higher revenue and 30% higher profits than competitors, according to a 2018 Accenture report.
Leveraging Existing Skills
People with a disability might already have some working experience. Consider those with skills developed in the sectors the pandemic has most savaged and who aren’t returning en masse to those jobs.
I’m talking about the retail and hospitality sectors. Their skills are highly transferrable, such as for selling cars via digital retailing. That’s why a Cox Automotive survey (https://www.coxautoinc.com/news/help-wanted-u-s-automobile-dealers-struggle-to-hire-employees-while-business-booms/) recommended dealerships actively promote their vacancies to people who lack automotive experience. It says potential candidates need a can-do attitude, good communications skills, adaptability and must be tech-savvy.
Such people could be retrained for the automotive industry for work in dealerships and elsewhere within the sector through traineeships and apprenticeships. No other form of training builds deep skills so closely matched to sponsoring a company’s unique needs.
No Need to Reinvent the Wheel
Recruiting people with a disability, whether they’re new to the workforce or are retraining, isn’t about starting from scratch. Here’s how to open your talent pool:
- Have an accessible website (follow WCAG 2.0 AA standards)
- Adopt companywide universal design practices
- Use accessible technology platforms where all candidates, local service and national disability organizations can meet to promote job opportunities
- Speak with school districts and local high schools about your skilled labor needs
- Partner with regional or local Think College organizations that run job-readiness programs for people with a disability
- Include people with disabilities in your diversity, equity and inclusion recruitment strategies, goals and measures
In addition, apprenticeship intermediaries offer a groundswell of support and know-how to create a smoother path to employing people with disabilities in your workplace. Chances are, they’ll be your most loyal, conscientious and committed workers yet.
You can find out how more diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace practices make sense in my report, “Ready, Willing & Able: Why it Pays to Hire People With a Disability.” (https://www.iwsiamerica.org/rwa-report/)
This October marked the 76th observance of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), which celebrates the contributions of Americans with disabilities in the workplace.
NDEAM prompts employers to re-evaluate their personnel policies and make an extra effort to hire and retain people with disabilities across the entire spectrum of jobs.
Nick Wyman (pictured, above left) is CEO and Founder of the IWSI Group, a global network and leading enterprise dedicated to matching job seekers with automotive careers through apprenticeships.