(Article published in L’AUTOMOBILE Collision magazine, February 2024)

By Isabelle Havasy

In a context of rapid evolution, the automotive industry is facing considerable challenges. The major issues were discussed in a recent webinar, moderated by Jean-François Champagne, President of Automotive Industries Association of Canada.

Alana Baker, Vice-President of Government Relations and Research at AIA Canada, and Dr. Mauricio Zelaya, Group Leader, Economics at Ernst & Young Canada presented the highlights of the Automotive Labour Market Research Report, and suggested possible solutions. Prepared by AIA Canada, the report paints a preoccupying picture of the industry as it faces a severe labour shortage, compounded by a slowdown in interest in apprenticeship programs. This trend is even more alarming given that the rapid evolution of electric vehicles (EVs) requires technicians with advanced skills and ongoing training to keep up with emerging technologies.

Key Obstacles

One of the major obstacles preventing the arrival of new talent is negative public perception. High entry costs for certain specialties, uncompetitive salaries compared to other industries, and lack of diversity also have an impact. The report indicates a significant turnover rate (56.2%) among young workers (aged 18-24), highlighting the need to intensify efforts to attract and, above all, retain these profiles.

Mr. Zelaya stresses the importance of greater collaboration between the sector’s various players to rehabilitate the image of the automotive professions and promote the variety of careers in the industry. He underlines the necessity to improve training in electric vehicles (EVs) to overcome the shortage of qualified personnel and increase the commitment of apprentices. Diversity is another key issue. To enrich the talent pool, it is essential to attract women and immigrants.

Potential Solutions

Ms. Baker reinforces this idea by advocating forward-looking strategies to overcome shared obstacles. She points to the role the automotive service industry plays in supporting communities, creating jobs and stimulating economic activity across the country. She calls for a number of key measures to be put in place to attract younger people and individuals from non-traditional groups. These include promoting the sector, raising awareness of the impact of technology and the transition to EVs, and fighting stigma.

Governments, higher education institutions, industry and organizations must work together to facilitate this transition, notably by updating training programs. Stakeholders need to establish clear performance indicators, with precise targets for each. An analysis of the existing situation is essential to assess the impact of any changes made. Rigorous monitoring of actions on a regular basis will enable strategies to be adjusted where necessary.

An Effervescent Industry

The fast-changing automotive sector requires significant investment in skills and training. The recommended solutions, focusing on education, collaboration and diversification, are key elements. By adopting a proactive and inclusive approach, the industry will succeed not only in thriving, but also in becoming an example of dynamism and adaptability in an ever-changing world.

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