How Tasmanian businessman is navigating new industry skills shortage

As Australia’s automotive industry shifts towards electrification, there’s a growing demand for skilled workers to meet the new technology needs.

Tasmanian business owner Adam Levis has experienced first-hand the need to pivot from training in traditional automotive, and is advising others in the industry to get on the front foot to avoid a critical skills shortage.

Adam has owned Moonah-based dealership Bikeworks since 2012, selling Suzuki and Kawasaki motorcycles but has increasingly started to integrate electric scooters, skateboards, and bicycles in store as well. With new data revealing that electric vehicle sales for the first half of 2023 have already eclipsed last year’s annual total, Adam knew he needed to expand the skills of his workforce in response to this growing shift towards electric vehicles.

As well as having traditional automotive apprentices, Adam has started hiring and skilling electrical apprentices.

While Adam welcomes the transition to electrified mobility, he said it has created a noticeable skills gap in the industry, “This particular industry is going through the most disruptive period in its history as we transition to electrified mobility. It’s something that finds Australia way behind the eight ball when really, we probably should be leading it,” he said.

“Traditionally, Australia has relied upon fossil fuel energy but what’s driving a more electrified market are external factors like climate change – and this is being regulated and legislated globally such that we need to move to electrified powertrains as part of the push to try and reduce our carbon footprint.”

To address the skills shortage, Adam has partnered with Mas National (Part of the IntoWork Group) to train mechanical apprentices in automotive electrical work, providing them with on-the-job learning. So far, Adam has brought on five apprentices all with a Certificate III in Automotive Electrical Technology.

“Mas National has helped us out for years with our traditional apprentices. When we bought this business, we identified a gap in terms of qualified mechanics, so we started putting on apprentices to address the shortfall and ensure they have relevant qualifications and experience across a whole range of different vehicles. Most of the other businesses we compete with are owner-operator businesses or family businesses where the dad’s a mechanic and passes on the skills to his son. I’m not a mechanic, so I’m dependent on having technically skilled people around me,” he said.

Mas Business Consultant Malachi Taurins said Mas National helped Adam with a business strategy to deliver a pipeline of qualified tradespeople who’d be ready to support the growing demand, “There was an urgent need to re-train and build a new skill set for the forthcoming transition. Mas helped Adam sign-up all five staff under Certificate III in Automotive Electrical Technology. He is now confident that he’s set the foundation for his workforce’s needs both in the short and long term,” he said.

Adam said a lot more investment is needed for Australia’s electrical and automotive industries especially, to bring on qualified technicians, “The organisations that do provide training really need a lot more financial support to increase their capacity, especially in an emerging technology space, to be able to deliver training as most of their trades are very traditional. There have been various attempts over the years with varying degrees of success, but there’s certainly some more firepower required there now. As time moved on and the industry started to change, we identified that we needed to train more people. Having a good relationship with Mas has allowed me to see what opportunities we have to bring people in.”

Adam said Bikeworks has managed to stay at the forefront of the shift towards electrified mobility, and encouraged all businesses, large or small, to be proactive about making sure they’re prepared for what the future holds, “It’s nice to be able to have a team with the appropriate skills in a small business, prepared for what the future brings. By staying ahead of industry trends and investing in employee training, small businesses can play a significant role in driving industry change.”

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