Apr 17, 2015
Ireland's motor industry is facing a skills shortage with some car dealers now forced to look abroad for workers due to the apprenticeship crisis.
The recent surge in new car sales is creating a skills crisis, with the main dealers saying they cannot find enough qualified technicians to fill vacancies.
Dave Pimlott, customer service director at Ford Ireland, told the Irish Independent that if the staff shortage gets much worse, companies would have to look abroad.
"We may have to go to Germany and places like that and bring in technicians to fill the gap here. At some time in the near future, it could get that bad."
Nissan Ireland CEO James McCarthy said dealerships were starting to "creak" in the rising car market with sales people as well as technicians in demand.
"With this in mind, we are very much encouraging our dealers to start the process of recruiting salespeople for their businesses again," he said. It is estimated that every 1,000 extra car sales generates 130 jobs.
With sales this year likely to be 45,000 ahead of 2013, it is clear that filling all those extra positions will be difficult, leading to some dealers looking abroad to recruit workers.
New car sales are forecast to reach 130,000-plus each year for the next few years, driving demand for workers.
Around 10,000 people were forced to leave the industry during the recession.
However, in the last 12 months some 4,500 jobs have been created due to rising car sales, with motoring executives signalling another 5,000 new jobs will be created over the next few years.
To fill the skills gap, distributors and dealers are mounting countrywide recruitment blitzes for both qualified staff and trainees.
Usually the sale of a new car sparks a spiral of work at a dealership: preparing the new model, repairing and improving the trade-in and, possibly, the car traded against the trade-in.
The lift in new-car sales and a big rise in the number of secondhand vehicles needing repairs means many garages are stretched to breaking point to cope with demand.
Some dealers have become so desperate they are poaching staff from rivals and outbidding each other with promises of large salary increases.
There is also heavy demand for experienced sales and after-sales people - and salaries are on the up in that area too.
Dealers are said to be "squeezing work in", but they don't have enough technicians and those they have are often working late into the night and Saturday evenings.
An Irish Independent investigation found that nearly every distributor and dealer in the country is advertising for full-time staff.
The Society of the Irish Motor Industry (Simi) confirmed that about 200 positions a month were being advertised at national level. Its training and human resources manager, Margaret O'Shea, pointed out that even those figures do not take account of additional recruitments at local level.
Simi chief Alan Nolan also said: "Over the next few years, our industry could be taking on 4,000 to 5,000. That is a huge challenge because it takes a long time to train and educate new people."
Robert Guy, director of group services for the Volkswagen group here, says: "We have a total of 96 sites across five franchises and I would say that each dealership probably needs three staff." That is nearly 300 jobs.
He confirmed that the greatest need was for technicians and service advisers. "We are actively looking to recruit in this area and, as the market grows, this will become increasingly urgent."
Ford Ireland chief Ciarán McMahon revealed: "If we had 50 to 100 apprentices and technicians in the morning, we would have work for them immediately."
Toyota spokesman Ian Corbett says: "Many dealers could employ additional technicians immediately such is the level of current business."