Is your company struggling to recruit and retain skilled workers? Are promising projects sitting on the shelf due to lack of able hands? Leaders in many automotive industries think so.
Some companies are tackling the problem through apprenticeship programs. Such on-the-job training makes good sense for companies that need middle-level skilled workers. Apprenticeships help build that crucial talent pipeline.
Many forward-thinking companies are demonstrating how apprenticeship programs can help solve problems facing American businesses and society: skilled labor shortages in the auto sector and a growing rate of youth unemployment largely due to COVID-19.
David Peterson has been in the automotive industry for over 40 years and knows firsthand the importance of having highly skilled and productive technicians. He supports mentored apprenticeship and encourages dealers to give it a try.
Peterson notes it’s not just the dealers who benefit: “Apprenticeship programs can offer an attractive pathway to young people to a secure, successful and rewarding career.” He is absolutely right. Engaging the next generation of young Americans has never been more critical for industry and the economy.
The nation’s nagging problem is high youth unemployment. The Bureau of Labor Statistics showed an overall unemployment rate of 6.9% in October 2020, but it’s higher for those aged 15 to 24 (8.94%). As well, just 63.4% of women were in work as of September this year, compared with 69% at the same time last year, according to Pew Research.
But on the last day of October, there were 6.4 million job openings. Working around this is a problem for employers.
While many positions that go begging in business and industry today require university degrees, most don’t and can be filled through apprenticeship training programs. Those programs are on average two to three years long and open the door to rewarding automotive careers.
People who enter those fields and augment their skills year-by-year can achieve solid, even high, incomes. Skilled auto technicians are in high demand (46,000 are needed to fill skills gaps in the next six years) and they’re no longer just blue-collar jobs, according to CNBC.
The U.S. auto industry has some bright spots. General Motors has reported U.S. sales are recovering faster than expected. In October, employment rose in motor vehicle and parts dealers by 23,000, the BLS reports.
Professional consultancy McKinsey predicts a 3% compound annual growth rate for the automotive aftermarket sector to 2030.
Digital transformation and automation will play a big part. Disruptive services and business models beyond equipment will grow up to 50%, while optimizing equipment, analytics and predictive maintenance will account for between 10% and 20% growth.
What Can Your Company Do?
Owners can ask managers to identify current and future skill gaps, implement effective recruiting and training programs and develop strategies for dealing with the aging workforce.
Part of the skills-gap solution rests with younger citizens – our future. We need programs to connect them to training pathways, providing a bridge between school and the world of work. A hand up, not a handout.
Companies and organizations don’t have to reinvent the wheel to create their own apprenticeship programs. apprenticeship intermediaries are ideal to help employers customize apprenticeship training programs to their business needs.
Companies using these models also can delegate most of the recruiting, worker training and employment, wage administration and employee benefits to the intermediary.
Here are a few things we’ve learned about making skill-building programs for these young people more successful:
- Demonstrate a long-term commitment and strong executive support.
- Offer attractive pay to apprentices and offer each a “career ladder” to more challenging and better-paying positions.
- Assign a one-on-one mentor to every participant. An effective mentor transfers tacit organizational knowledge while providing support and guidance. Young people and their mentors develop bonds of loyalty that lead to employee satisfaction and retention.
- Design apprenticeship around your company’s business needs. These programs shouldn’t be about charity, but about creating value for your enterprise.
Giving a “hand up” through building skills is a powerful way for directors to help their organizations while addressing one of America’s nagging social problems.
Nicholas Wyman (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.