Friday 23 February 2018

Job-seekers flown in from Australia as skills crisis hits car trade

Suzanne Sheridan motoring recruitment
Suzanne Sheridan motoring recruitment
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

THE skills shortage in the motor industry has grown so acute that dealers are paying for prospective employees to be flown home for interviews from as far away as Australia.

They are also bumping up remuneration packages to include pension deals and flexi-time instead of the traditional salary-and-commission system.

And there is anecdotal evidence that salaries have risen sharply as rising demand sparks bidding wars between dealers.

Driving the demand is the surge in new car sales. Every extra 1,000 sold creates around 130 additional jobs. Each sale has a ripple effect: most new cars have a vehicle traded in against them and there are trade-ins against trade-ins, all requiring preparation, servicing and sale.

Distributors have rolled out national campaigns to attract people to positions from entry-level apprenticeships to top-level sales and management.

The Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI) says there are hundreds of jobs waiting to be filled on its website. It has noticed a "significant increase" in vacancies, especially for sales executives, technicians and service advisers.

There is also "very strong demand" for apprentices and its members are "actively seeking school leavers or more mature applicants" for careers - from apprentices to jobs in finance, digital marketing, business, sales and parts management.

Motor industry recruitment expert Suzanne Sheridan, inset, said the level of demand is such that many people are returning from abroad to take up jobs here. The 'Start Monday Ltd' founder helps recruit staff solely for the industry.

"There is a huge influx of people returning from abroad, particularly, Australia, Canada and the Middle East," she said.

Her company, set up in late 2014 in response to the shortage, usually conducts Skype interviews first and then sets up a call with the prospective employer. "Depending on the seniority of the candidate, the dealership may then choose to fly the candidate to Ireland for a face-to-face interview and cover the cost of the flight.

"The cost of flights would normally be reserved for more senior roles including sales manager and above."

She said the most sought-after candidates are sales people experienced in selling premium vehicles. "We are seeing, for the first time in several years, that dealers are revisiting the salary packages. There is now recognition that to attract key talent and retain existing staff, packages must be competitive."

With 150,000 new-car sales projected for 2016 the scarcity of skilled professionals is likely to get even more acute.

Ms Sheridan says it is expected there will be an additional 3,500 to 4,000 new jobs in the industry in 2016. And she warned: "The industry as a whole needs to recognise that to attract talented people, it needs to replicate the types of terms and conditions on offer to senior sales candidates in other sectors. The automotive sector really needs to sell itself as being far less cyclical than it once was now that we have car registrations in January and July each year.

This change has created far more stable career paths in the industry, she believes.

She also reports on a significant increase in the number of women joining what is regarded as a male-dominated industry.

And there are real opportunities for those with no experience of selling cars. "We have placed candidates into sales and management positions who have come from industries as diverse as pharma, financial services, and the food sector among others."

There has also been a "huge upsurge" in people returning to the trade after being let go during the bad times. Employment in the motor trade is around 44,700 - an increase of 9,500 since the low point end of 2009 but still 4,800 down on the peak of 49,500 in 2007.

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