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How COVID and Brexit changed the UK Labour Market for the Vehicle Dismantling Sector forever!


Brexit and European Isolation

In part two of our series, we continue our examination into the challenges of recruitment and retention faced by the vehicle dismantling industry, and try to understand why there are so many vacant dismantling job roles across the UK and why we struggle to keep those positions filled. This week we are discussing how the job market was impacted by Brexit and the pandemic, and whether or not pay is now more than ever, the single most important consideration for those looking for work.


How Brexit and Covid changed the UK Job Market Forever

Any examination of the problems surrounding recruitment and retention will benefit from looking at market forces which have experienced distruption in more recent years. Net migration of EU citizens fell sharply due to Brexit with the end of free movement especially affecting lower-wage roles in the UK. The pandemic then compounded the problem with employers forced to cut staff, particularly in sectors where EU migrants were concentrated. With the UK immigration system providing few opportuntities for EU workers to take up lower-wage jobs (due to the salary threshold for employer-sponsored visas), the UK labour market is way smaller than it was in 2019. We are living in different times which warrant a different approach to recruitment. Employers are faced with negotiating a far tighter labour pool then before Brexit. In addition, job preferences post-pandemic have significantly changed with job seekers choosing to be more picky over the roles they interview for, whilst also evaluating any work opportunity with a wider set of criteria than ever before. We know this to be a fact because UK resignations post-pandemic have risen to levels previously not seen in UK , and have remained there for the last four years. Those roles most affected by this these resignations are not surprisingly the low-wage jobs; those that are physically strenuous or offer little flexibility.


Pay: Its all about the Money

Its all about the Money!

So how do we tackle this problem? I can fix this problem by attracting the right candidates with more money right? Well, money may well be able to intise them throught the door but without thinking more long term, there is no guarantee you were be able to hold onto them. If a role has been historically perceived as a starter role, a platform from which new employees are "tested" to see if they are organisationally compatible and offered promises of being springboarded at a later date into a better position (better prospectives and opportunities) with a company, it may be time for a rethink. Workers are more savy and will quickly dismiss roles that, although critical to your business, lack investment, are disorganised, are unsupervised and poorly managed. If your organisation perceive these roles as less important, its likely that you new recruits will perceive those roles as equally unimportant, damaging both productivity and morale.


It might surprise some to learn that pay is not the number one motivator for workers in the UK jumping ship, however that doesn’t mean that pay isn’t a significant contributor. Gone are the plentiful numbers of EU workers who provided vital support and made up a significant part of the depollution and dismantling positions with recycling businesses. Our sector no longer have the pick of a labour market, where staff were plentiful and low wages were common. Your business is now competing directly with other sectors including construction, automotive, transport and warehouse, recycling, hospitality and retail industries. Sectors that are all pulling from the same shrunken labour pool and are already rethinking their recruitment strategy in order to keep job vacancies filled.


ATFs are no different but we are late to the party. If we are going to tackle the UK wide shortage of depollution and dismantling techncians we need to better. If an organisation is typically offering low wages, inadequate training, expecting employees to work outside for prolonged periods, unsupervised, with cheap tooling and old work equipment, is it any surprise that their vacancies remain empty? Something ineeds to change and that usually starts with looking at pay. However job seekers now more than ever, are evaluating pay as a part of the total benefits package being offered by prospective employers. Post pandemic motivators such as a shorter working week, part-time or flexible work patterns are proving to be popular for those looking to negotiate personal commitments, families and manage their work-life balance. Another important incentive that bring about a number of benefits for both employer and the employee, is training and development. Structured workplace training and career development incentives have proven to be extremely effective ways to organise work, foster ownership, improve productivity and allow employees to be the best versions of themselves. Furthermore, having bragging rights across your corporate social media accounts on the quality of the workplace training and development ensures that skilled labour from comparable industries take note!


Advertising for Future Job Roles

Advertising nowadays without offering an indication of salary does not work. In less time than it took for you to read the last sentence, your prospective candidate has dismissed the job listings marked “salary negotiable” and moved onto the adverts that are clear on their pay offer. Once a job seeker has defined what type of job they are looking for in the search criteria, the very next thing filter will always be pay. So, if your business is guilty of this tactic, stop. You are just wasting your recruitment budget. Which job seeker wants to enter the recruitment phase, arrange an interview, update their CV, take time out of work, pay for fuel for travel to and from, etc before they have any idea whether the money being offered is affordable? Job adverts that don’t provide at least a pay range or use the words “attractive” or “competitive” to describe remuneration, are simply saying we aim to pay the lowest we can get away with! I also have a particular issue with those who offer a ludicrous and ambitiously wide salary range when putting together a job post. Typically, we are led to believe that this is all about offering the right candidate a wage that matches their experience/knowledge level, but typically an organisation is attempting to attract without any intention of offering the upper end of the pay scale advertised. Job seekers know they are only likely to be offered the starting pay rate, so this tactic is again, not fooling anyone!


Next week we will discuss how applying defined standards in workplace training helps lower your costs by attracting the right people into your business first time, increasing staff retention and securing the investment made in your technical staff long-term.




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