12 Jul 2024
The voice of the independent garage sector

Skills gap ‘stifling’ potential of garages, GSF boss warns

The ongoing skills gap in the UK’s automotive sector is an “artificial straitjacket” around UK independent garages that is stifling potential and increasing costs for motorists, the CEO of GSF Car Parts has warned.

Steve Horne (pictured) said whoever forms the next government needs to tackle the skills deficit urgently.

Horne, speaking on June 13 ahead of GSF’s TechFest Garage Technology Festival in Wembley, said: “The skills gap currently facing the sector is a huge ticking timebomb — and it only seems to be getting wider and wider. This is incredibly painful for garages that are successfully winning work and looking to grow.”

GSF is recruiting heavily and adding a huge range of skilled jobs, but finding people is a real challenge for the sector, he said.

Horne’s warning came just weeks after analysis published by the Institute of the Motor Industry showed vacancies in the automotive aftermarket remain stubbornly high at 23,000.

“As a company, we want to grow too,” Horne said. “We have invested millions in scaling our business and driving growth, but our success depends on our customers being able to thrive. And for that, they need skilled technicians in big numbers.”

Aftermarket reported last month that GSF will open a new 500,000 sq ft national distribution centre in Wolverhampton to “rapidly awaken the sleeping giant of the UK aftermarket”.

“We need to direct more young people to the sector, give the industry a name as an ideal career destination, whilst opening more routes for young people,” Horne said.

“The independent garage sector has been in the shadows too long. There are exceptional people working in skilled roles on incredibly complex vehicle technologies. The public’s perception may be of people twirling spanners, but technicians need a raft of skills to deal with today’s cars.” 

Meanwhile Ambi Singh, CEO of Easy2Recruit — a recruitment agency that helps UK garages and automotive businesses hire from overseas — revealed he had written to Home Secretary James Cleverley asking for vehicle technicians, mechanics and electricians to be added to the UK Shortage Occupation List, which allows employers to hire and sponsor overseas workers with the required skills under more favourable criteria than other jobs.