Much has been said about the impact of the skills shortage on the heavy vehicle industry, and the desperate need to attract more young people into trades to enable our manufacturers to cater for demand.

According to Heavy Vehicle Industry Australia’s Chief Executive Todd Hacking that is irrefutably the case, and HVIA is actively prosecuting an array of workforce development initiatives, to help members in this regard.

“If our industry is to keep and grow its existing specialised workforce, we need to invest in developing career pathways that make it attractive to stay in our industry,” Mr Hacking said.

“That means investing in continuous training and upskilling that prepares good workers for advancement, with the obvious reward to the employer being a more stable and more productive business.”

As far back as 2007 the Australian Parliamentary Committee report Australian Manufacturing: Today and Tomorrow identified not only a skills shortage in the manufacturing industry, but also a skills gap, whereby existing workers were being asked to perform tasks outside of their natural skillset or qualification.

In making these observations, the report criticises the skill-based training system, which is generally narrowly focused and aligned to a specific role, rather than equipping our future workforce with transferrable, widely applicable skill-sets.

“In reading the report, I couldn’t help but reflect on the hundreds, if not thousands of industry personnel I have met since I started at HVIA back in February,” Mr Hacking added.

“Many of these meetings and discussions have focused on, or included, discussion on the skills shortage but very rarely has the skills gap been raised.

“Many of these discussions have been with people who are in this exact situation – performing a job they have been promoted to, which is outside of their traditional qualification or skillset.

“Anecdotally, this is because our industry, like many other manufacturing / industrial industries, prefer to appoint from within.

“Loyalty and knowledge of the business or product is favoured over a defined set of skills, hoping that the hard-working ‘good bloke’ will be able to learn on the job.

“Of course, sometimes the imperative is time – a role needs to be filled and a drawn-out recruitment process just can’t be stomached.

“Now let me state for the record, there is nothing wrong with promoting from within. This industry is full of very successful managers, general managers, executive general managers, managing directors and CEOs, who started as an apprentice in the workshop or on the factory floor.

“In fact, to the contrary, there is something very alluring about an industry that is prepared to reward hard work and loyalty, rather than appoint an outsider who may be qualified on paper but who doesn’t know the industry, product or workplace.

“But anyone that has been thrust into a new role without adequate training or preparation will tell you how taxing it can be; the sleepless nights, the paperwork, making decisions on the fly and the constant feeling of just keeping your head above water as everyone wants a piece of you.”