Many Land Rover specialists are struggling to recruit and retain skilled staff. The problem affects the whole industry, not just Land Rovers, and appears to be getting worse, according to various business owners that LRO has spoken to.
‘Staff retention is painful,’ says Chris McCormack who runs Oak Ridge Engineering in Staffordshire. ‘Skilled people such as fabricators are earning about £35,000-38,000 as a basic wage, and they’re being offered joining bonuses by other companies to take up positions elsewhere.
All my technical staff have to sign non-disclosure agreements – I’ve had to become much more cut-throat than I used to be, when it comes to protecting our business in case staff leave to work for competitors.’
Others are changing career entirely and leaving Land Rover businesses altogether, says Allen Walker, boss of Avenger 4x4 in Cambridgeshire. ‘People are just pulling out of the trade. Why would you stay as a technician in a Land Rover workshop earning £35k when you can train to drive an HGV and get £60k?’
Low-skilled staff are also unwilling to accept low wages when increasingly lucrative opportunities are available to them outside the industry. ‘We’ve reached a stage where low-skilled work is paid more than skilled work,’ says Allen, who also points to a generational shift in attitudes. ‘Apprenticeships don’t have a long-term view these days. It costs money to take them on while they’re still learning, and they’ve got to spend the time learning the trade before they can earn good pay.’
Tough economic conditions compound the problem, says Allen. ‘As a small business owner we’ve also got cost increases across the board. I really don’t know what the answer is.’
While the solutions are difficult to pin down, the consequences are more obvious – and are being felt by employees and customers alike.
If you’re a Land Rover business looking for good staff, get in touch with LRO and we’ll try to help spread the word.