Some dealers feel frustrated at a lack of apprenticeship courses designed specifically for mobility engineers across UK colleges and other education providers.
Many retailers, which are often time-poor and overstretched, struggle to find young staff who have come out of college skilled and trained to the exact requirements of a mobility business. The choice is especially limited in rural localities.
Managing director of Cumbria Mobility, Stephen Cornwell, believes the root of the problem is the lack of local apprenticeship schemes that are sector-specific.
It means that any new staff have to be trained in-house and on the job, which is not ideal for smaller companies, he believes.
He said: “There’s no programme so instead we’ve got to find people with a base knowledge of mechanics and electrics and then fine-tune them with suppliers. We send them over to suppliers who run the courses and train them.
“The nearest thing that comes to touching on it is occupational therapy for seating systems and things like that. You’ve got to be very specific on what would be acceptable for the industry.
“It’s very difficult when you’ve got a young person who has no mechanical or electrical background and there’re no course at college or university to teach them, so you’ve got to get someone with a basic knowledge and fine-tune it to your needs.
“Steve’s been in the industry for around 20 years and so have I, and we’ve done at least two courses per year and you accumulate that knowledge. It takes a lot of time to accumulate that kind of knowledge.”
While it is generally tough for mobility retailers to find and train new staff, some businesses stress that apprentices still have an important role to play in the future of dealerships and can be far more beneficial to a company than poaching an experienced professional from a rival business.
TPG DisableAids’ boss has a policy to take on at least two apprentices every year to help ensure the longevity of the business.
Managing director of the Hereford-based family outfit, Alastair Gibbs, said that if staff are recruited from a rival firm then there is a chance they will come with a lot of unwelcome “baggage”.
“If you have homegrown through the apprentice route then they know everything that you’ve told them and they’re far more loyal, generally. If you treat people well they become far more valued employees.”