18 May 2024
The voice of the independent garage sector

Ping-demic highlights pre-existing skills shortage in automotive sector

With 618,903 people in England and Wales instructed to self-isolate in just one week up to 14 July, the automotive sector will not be immune from the impact the NHS COVID-19 app is having on the wider society.

While empty shelves in supermarkets are grabbing the headlines, staff shortages in essential industries could be more serious in the longer term.

With a widening skills gap even before the pandemic, Steve Nash, CEO of the IMI said the automotive sector may be particularly exposed: “Motor dealers have joined other UK businesses in highlighting the workforce challenges caused by the ‘ping-demic’. The IMI believes this latest consequence of COVID-19 simply serves to further highlight the critical state of the automotive sector when it comes to skills. Our most recent analysis of automotive job vacancies revealed that there are currently 14,000 positions that need to be filled; it is not, therefore, surprising that employers are concerned about the impact of short-notice absence for coronavirus isolation. We are also concerned that employers juggling workforce to address short notice absence will put training on hold – something the sector can ill-afford as we continue to hurtle towards the 2030 deadline.

He added: “We hope that government responds to industry calls to find ways to manage the situation more effectively – of course we don’t want people spreading COVID-19 but regular testing could be part of the solution.”

Meanwhile, the government’s decision to exclude essential workers from needing to self-isolate if they are double-vaccinated has led to calls for this to be extended to a much wider group.

Putting the case for forecourt workers, Gordon Balmer, the Executive Director of the PRA said, “We are well aware of supply issues in shops, primarily as a result of workers who are part of the supply chain including terminal staff, tanker drivers and forecourt staff who have contracted COVID-19 or, more often, pinged to self-isolate.”

He concluded, “It is important that forecourts are able to be properly staffed given the crucial role they play in keeping the country moving and ensuring that emergency services are kept refuelled. During previous lockdowns, filling stations were identified as essential services. We are now requesting that officials at BEIS and DHSC confirm this same status for our members in the list of exemptions.”