Auto repair tradesmen in decline

2011-03-21 10:11

Johannesburg - The shrinking number of tradesmen in the auto repair industry and the fact that their current average age is 52 years could lead to foreign experts eventually having to be enticed to South Africa.

For that reason much is being done to attract young apprentices, said Len Whiteley, the national head of training for the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI) organisation.

He said the average age of tradesmen in the motor industry is creeping closer to the retirement age of 65. It is currently somewhere between 48 and 52.

Meanwhile, fewer school-leavers have been entering the industry as apprentices.

Countrywide at the end of January there were some 4 100 registered apprentices, 3.5% of whom were women. There are about 5 500 registered motor dealers in the country. This means there is less than one apprentice for every registered motor dealer.

To place these figures in perspective, according to the Law Society of South Africa's Department of Legal Education and Development (LEAD) there were 6 991 first-year law students last year.

About 42% of the apprentices were white, while some 38% black.

An apprenticeship usually lasts four years. Most apprentices, some 31%, are second-years, and a quarter third-years. Around 920 or 22% of the apprentices are first-years. These number considerably more than the 488 first-year apprentices starting their apprenticeships in 2007, but less than half of the 1 855 entering the industry in 1991.

Whiteley said the motor industry was trying hard to boost the number of apprenticeships, but there were several factors threatening the industry's plans.

Large dealers employed most of the apprentices, and spent the most on training. Because of the skills shortage qualified tradesmen are in demand and staff are increasingly poached, often by smaller dealers who spend less or even nothing on training.

Whiteley said this practice, as well as the increasing number of tradesmen leaving the country to work – especially in the Middle East, Australia and New Zealand – meant that dealers were wary of spending too much money on apprenticeships.

The automotive industry is also a victim of public ignorance and misconceptions. Learners do not get enough exposure to technology. A passion for technology needs to be cultivated at an early age, said Whiteley.

He said the old "do-it-yourself culture" was on the decline as vehicles became more technologically advanced and fewer children these days had opportunities to work on a car with a parent.

- Sake24

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  • great_expectations - 2011-03-21 12:06

    My nephew studiedto be a motor mechanic, but now he is sitting at home, because he can't get an apprenticeship anywhere. I did various IT courses and also struggled to get work, I applied everywhere, even volunteered to work for free just to get experience, but no responded even though I was the TOP student at the academy I was at, and had other technical qualifications and experience. SO I get irritated at these articles about 'the big skills shortage' in IT or artisans, or engineers or whatever, which apparently is so bad that they are discussing bringing in foreigners, and yet when you go look for work, there is nothing.

      leerobbertse - 2011-03-21 13:13

      Sorry mate there is a election comming, read between the lines here, they do not care, its just lip service, if you wait for the government to help you you are doomed, start by helping yourself, find something you can do where you do not have to rely on the government and work from there. good luck.

      ? - 2011-03-21 18:00

      I agree with you. These articles just take the "average temperature" for the entire country.The best places to find work are large cities,and the problem with this is,is that everyones moving there,making the task of getting work so much more harder.

  • Juggernaut - 2011-03-21 14:31

    Well here's the thing. Become a Chartered Accountant CA(SA), after 7 years earn about 1/3rd more than you are worth. You have been trained to do nothing other than criticize everyone else, who you call thick as a brick. You have the luxury of being able to blame everyone else if you fail in what you are doing. After all you only deal with the very end numbers where you can blather on about Impairment and IFRS and everyone believes you as they have been conditioned through propaganda to accept CAs as gxds gift to humanity no less. As a motor mechanic you will only be able to actually fix something and make it function better than before. Because you have a little grease under your fignernails you will be looked down upon. The fact that you actually make the wheels of the economy turn (literally and figuratively) will count for little. Now if you are a CA the sun will shine of course from your behind, blindling all with your splendor and heroism. Gardner and Mitchell from Health and Raquet Club go to jail this week. Guess what their qualifications are. They must never get parole. Still members of SAICA?

  • Rodney Emmerich - 2011-03-21 17:54

    Motor dealers charge over R400 per hour for labour but pay their apparently valuable tradesmen a pittance , no wonder they are in short supply , who wants to slog it out all month and hardly take home R10000. The profit goes to pay all the office johnnnies that sit in air conditioned offices and ride all the latest models while the tradesmen can only afford 20 to 30 year old cars. If tradesmen are so sought after start paying them accordingly!!!!

      Autoadvisor - 2011-04-15 12:37

      The general rule of thumb and method of payment when I worked in the U.K. for a qualified productive mechanic was a third of the retail rate charged by the workshop would be paid to the mechanic and if that method were to be applied in South Africa a good productive mechanic would be earning around R24000.00 p.m minimum less of course deductions. Actually this is a poorly paid industry world wide it is really driven by passion and interest and as you quite rightly say the profit goes to the office johnnies etc who know absoutely nothing it is a bitter pill to swallow I know I have been there, my advice stick it out learn as much as possible and start your own workshop but that won't be all sunshine either.IT'S A HARD INDUSTRY

  • Alfie123 - 2011-03-22 08:41

    The fact that you pay the poor apprentices an absolute pittance does nothing to entice youngsters to the industry either! My husband who is 61 and is a star of a panelbeater and works for Imperial Autobodies (a large company), gets paid about half of what I do - I have discouraged my son to follow in his father's footsteps.

  • Trevor - 2011-03-22 09:54

    If it were not for Mibco and legislation to "protect"the employed smaller business would be employing and training more,

      Autoadvisor - 2011-04-15 10:07

      Trevor you have hit the nail on the head I had a car repair business in Sasolburg for fifteen years I got so fed up with all this legislation and no production that I decided to give up I am now a 64 year old home mechanic still providing a service to my loyal customers but working alone, so who is losing out as a result of all this bureaucracy.

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