The addition of two automotive roles to the immigration Green List is great news, but there’s more work to be done to solve the skills shortage facing many businesses in the sector.
That’s the call from the Motor Trade Association (MTA), in response to the announcement that Collision Repairers and Automotive Refinishers have been added to the Green List.
MTA Chief Executive Lee Marshall says MTA, in close collaboration with the Collision Repair Association (CRA), had advocated strongly to Government to include the roles.
“We know the skilled labour shortage is the number one issue facing many of our members,” Lee says.
“It’s causing financial and emotional stress for many business owners, who face longer hours, delaying their retirement, even closure in some cases.
“These roles are also crucial for keeping Kiwis safe on the roads, and ensuring repairs are carried out quickly and professionally, so we thank the Government for listening to us.”
According to the CRA’s latest data, the industry needs around 1000 collision repairers and refinishers. Vehicle repairs can take between six and 12 weeks as a result.
And most collision repairers are family-owned businesses that are already under considerable financial pressure. In an industry where most of the revenue comes from a small number of insurance companies essentially fix pricing, businesses face pressures on both sides of the equation.
In its election year call to the next Government, Driving New Zealand Forward, MTA also called for the processing of overseas applications to be sped up and simplified – members say it can currently take months for an application to be processed.
And Lee says in any case, the Green List additions are only a short-term solution.
“The Green List is a welcome short-term fix. But employers want to hire local talent and give up-and-coming young Kiwis a step into the industry.
“At the moment, we just don’t have the number of good apprentices that employers need. We need some answers, direction and involvement with Te Pūkenga, which to an outside eye is in a state of confusion.
“We need automotive businesses to have a greater say and involvement in how training is developed and run. MTA previously had representatives on the board of MITO and we were supportive of the move to Te Pūkenga, and what was originally sold as increased voice and representation in the vocational system. In reality, the opposite has been true – we have probably never been further away.”
Lee also says the Apprenticeship Boost scheme, which pays employers $500 a month for first and second-year apprentices, should be extended.
“It’s helped more than 60,000 apprentices across a range of industries get roles, but it’s due to finish at the end of next year. There is also no doubt the government could get better bang for buck with a system targeted to role types in shortage.
“We’ve urged all political parties to remove the uncertainty and make it permanent – it works.”