British Columbia’s new vehicle industry, like many other sectors, is in the midst of a labour crunch. Across the province, dealers and other auto-related businesses are struggling to hire employees in a number of areas – all critical to the success of the sector and provide services that consumers need and expect.
Overall, it’s anticipated the auto-industry in B.C. will need over 20,000 new hires to fill projected job openings, including those in management, sales or technical in nature, over the next 10 years.
So, why is this labour shortage such an issue? It’s important to recognize that this challenge is not new, but it was certainly exacerbated by the pandemic – and over the past year, it’s become increasingly difficult to find suitable candidates. At the same time, the competition for new job candidates is extremely high.
Obviously, a critical aspect of addressing this challenge is attracting young people into the various professions, through training or incentives.
On an annual basis, the New Car Dealers Foundation of BC (NCDF) awards CarCareerBC Education Grants to eligible students in British Columbia who wish to pursue a course of post-secondary education or training leading to a career in the automotive industry. These may include service or repair training, business degrees, marketing diplomas or other training that could be applied to a career in a new car dealership.
Each year, a number of grants are awarded, ranging in value from $500 to $2,500. The New Car Dealers Association and Foundation partners with various post-secondary institutions across B.C., with support from Snap-On, to offer these grants and scholarships. NCDF’s Auction for Athletes event each spring helps to raise funds for the grants and scholarships. Learn more about this year’s event, which is occurring from April 24 to 27, on the foundation’s website.
The B.C. Government is also providing hundreds of thousands of dollars in skills trade supports, in the form of grants, to help students complete automotive programs at post-secondary institutions. In turn, businesses are securing funding to help employees complete apprenticeships. These programs and apprenticeships are helping people become certified auto body repair, automotive service and motorcycle service technicians.
One area where there’s significant demand is that involving automotive technicians. Because of rapidly advancing technology and the growing popularity of zero-emission vehicles, this is an area of great need. Through policy and funding decisions, the B.C. Government is making strides, supporting the EV Maintenance Training Program at four B.C. institutions. The program teaches automotive technicians how to diagnose and repair zero-emission vehicles. Thanks to the program, dozens of new students are entering the province’s automotive workforce each year.
Moving forward, it’s clear that one of the keys is to provide training close to home. A perfect example being the trades center at Northern Lights College in Dawson Creek, where young people who might not otherwise have the opportunity for training, can do so in their hometown.
The NCDA also believes there’s also an opportunity to try and attract young people from under-represented groups and create opportunities for them to establish a career in their field of choice. While there is a growing percentage of women and Indigenous young people entering a variety of fields, it’s clear that we can do more to create inviting opportunities.
The human resources challenges we face won’t be solved overnight. Clearly, there’s no one single solution but rather a fulsome approach that involves a number of tactics and approaches – to create a brighter future for our young people and our sector.
Blair Qualey is President and CEO of the New Car Dealers Association of BC. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org