With Australians voting on a new federal government Aug. 21, the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce takes the opportunity to point out the auto industry’s retail, service and repair sector is in need of financial assistance. The group is recommending federal support to better market and promote this segment of the industry as a way to attract young people and skilled labor.

VACC Executive Director David Purchase says his group represents about 5,500 businesses in the RS&R sector of the Victorian and Tasmanian auto industry.

“We are also the largest employer of automotive apprentices in those states,” he says in a statement. “So we know what we are talking about when we say there is an abundance of retail automotive employers willing to engage apprentices, but the demand far outweighs supply.”

The overall labor market is getting tight, Purchase says. “We know of businesses going under or unable to expand due to critical skills shortages. The VACC has the infrastructure to tackle this issue, but we need federal government assistance to promote the sector to schools and the community at large.”

The VACC says previous governments have been prepared to promote the auto manufacturing industry, but often at the expense of the RS&R sector.

“The vast bulk of government financial support for the automotive industry continues to target the manufacturing side, and the retail side has become the ‘poor cousin,” Purchase says.

“Manufacturing is important. However, where would it be without the RS&R sector? Why build or import a vehicle if you cannot sell it, regularly check its safety or repair it?”

One solution to this problem is an industry image makeover. “The public perception of the RS&R sector continues to be outdated, in that it is now high-tech and provides good career opportunities,” he says.

“We know there are teenagers and university students thinking about their future career path. We know parents are helping them decide which direction to go, but we also know the opportunities within the RS&R sector are not being promoted to these groups.”

VACC also is calling on the next federal government to do more to promote small business in general, including the introduction of a national small-business ombudsman and the appointment of a small-business minister to the Cabinet. “Much is made of small business being the engine room of the economy and the significant provider of employment opportunities,” Purchase says.

“That is why the next federal government must do more to consult and cooperate with small business. Implementing these two recommendations will go some way to promoting small business in this country.”