Skills Shortage A Handbrake On Australia’s $58 Billion Aftermarket Sector: Capricorn

David Fraser

Capricorn’s 2023 State of the Nation Special Report shows rising concern about labour scarcity, with more than half of respondents reporting the skills shortage as their most urgent issue.

David Fraser, Capricorn Group Chief Executive Officer, said while members were confident in the future of their sector, finding skilled staff is an increasingly stressful burden on small business.

“Capricorn estimates that there are 13,600 vacant skilled positions across member workshops in Australia and New Zealand, with these vacancies taking an average of up to eight months to fill,” said Fraser.

“Members have always taken on apprentices to help with a pipeline of skilled labour, and whilst appetite to hire an apprentice is increasing, retaining them is a challenge.

“Overall, the stress about a lack of available skilled labour is up 12 per cent on last year’s survey, a concerning trend which is having a real impact on a sector contributing over $58 billion to Australia’s economy.

“Finding good staff is the biggest challenge members face in running their businesses, and it’s causing operational, financial, mental, and emotional stress.”

Simon Bonney, a Capricorn member who operates an automotive workshop in the Perth suburb of Mundaring, said the skills shortage has had a big impact on him and his business.

“We’ve had an experienced technician position advertised for roughly a year but it’s very hard to get skilled labour, especially in Western Australia where we’ve got to compete with mining,” he said.

According to Bonney, it is difficult to navigate the skilled migration system while managing the business and being on the tools, but he might consider it if the process was easier and cost effective.

“Trying to both run the business and do the repair work too comes with a lot of extra pressure and stress. It’s forced me to do longer hours. I’ve done 14-to-16-hour days recently.

“If we could get the people we need, it would be less stress on myself and would give me a bit more time to spend at home with the family,” he said.

Fraser said Capricorn strongly encourages its industry partners and government to use the research to drive change. “By helping this sector with red tape and cost reduction, the handbrake will come off this industry and the country will be better for it,” he added.