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Opening up the vital career gateway to the future

This year has placed recruitment issues as front and centre for many repair businesses but the new advocacy body, the Australian Collision Industry Alliance (ACIA) is looking forward to creating long-term solutions.

Founding member Rob Bartlett, who comes to the ACIA from decades of experience in the insurance industry, says the Alliance has generated some real momentum in its first six months, establishing a board and the multiple governance structures and systems that will ensure it is both representative and trusted.

For Bartlett these foundational necessities give them the clear range to pursue their defining purpose, addressing the industry’s issues – specifically recruitment.

“Our role is to help attract a sufficient number of people into the industry to remain sustainable,” Bartlett says.

“We need to make sure that there’s a critical mass of people who are available to be trained, who are going through the training systems.”

Rob Bartlett

Bartlett emphasises that the Alliance’s role in addressing what is more widely known as a skills issue is to take a big picture approach that is not necessarily concerned with the detail of skills training or delivery but rather an industry-wide approach to get more people channelled into the career pathways.

“It’s not our job to tell people how to fix a car. We don’t have enough time and resource to do that but what we do need to do is cooperate with the people who are doing that and if we can support them.”

The Alliance wants to reduce barriers that might prevent this flow of future talent choosing the repair industry over any other, especially when multiple trades sectors are suffering shortages.



“What we will be doing is predominantly working to change the perception of the industry, working to give career advisors, people who are thinking about careers, anybody engaged with people who are looking at careers, the information they need to know that this industry and career actually exists. And that it’s well remunerated and that it’s getting more high tech every year.”

 The ACIA will hold the next of its capital city info session in Canberra on December 7. More details here

Part of this will be matching the competition to attract potential employees by promoting the industry as a preferred workplace that is clean, corporate, well-organised, with good workplace cultures and open to change.

Counteracting misguided or antiquated public perceptions of the repair industry’s conditions and pay will also be critical, particularly in an education system that is ATAR focused and strongly channels young people into university pathways.

“This is going to be a good job to have in the long term. It’s getting cleaner, it’s getting more technical and it’s getting better run,” he says.

He also stresses it is an essential industry.

“And it’s absolutely vital: If you can’t fix cars, you can’t insure them. And if you can’t fix cars, then the fleet rolls to a stop and the economic impact is just enormous and will start to put problems in the way of Australia’s commercial success.”

While this impact on productivity gives the industry some clout with governments, Bartlett believes the transformation of perceptions is both a slow and gradual job. He reiterates the recruitment shortages have been a long time coming and solutions will be equally incremental and gradual.

“It’s not going to change overnight. But we’ve got to start, and we’ve got to work towards something where we can get meaningful change, slowly but surely and proactively. We must be very clear minded about what we’re doing and do it in a logical, researched, well-planned way.”

“We don’t need to be perfect. We just need to be better than others. We just need to get slightly more than our share. At the moment, we’re getting less than our share. If we get slightly more than our share of recruits; we start to build back up, we start to get to a sustainable level.”


Bartlett reiterates that responses can’t be temporary or piecemeal and ACIA’s strength and authority will be backed up by the substantial research.

“One of the first projects will be a research project, backed by proper researchers such as university level capability. If we do that right, ultimately, we can plan to get some support through the ARC or the various other government research bodies.”

The focus of the research will be determined in early 2024, aiming to achieve the highest possible level of verification and credibility to ensure it gains traction.

“There’s no reason why the ACIA can’t be a voice at the table in helping the discussion about awareness of the industry, the meaningful options, and possibilities for an industry to promote itself.”

Part of their investigation could look at solutions and steps taken by other industries, to synthesise the best approach for the repair industry.


“The sort of information careers people who are giving advice should have at their fingertips, not just in collision but in any industry. The sort of programs that help schools coach and inform young people. Every time somebody opens a young person’s mind to tell them about careers, one of the possibilities that needs to go in should be about automotive generally. We would say collision is the best part of automotive, but you know, an automotive win is an automotive win.”

And Bartlett says the diversity of pathways, whether it is in a workshop itself or dozens of ancillary industries needs to be reiterated.

While the turnaround will be slow, Bartlett is optimistic about the Alliance’s future role having established its structure and governance over the past six months.

“Now we’ve got a real bit of momentum,” Bartlett says.

“The core of the establishing work is done. We’ve got a proper constitution. We’re a properly set up company with the proper finance arrangements and we’ve got a well-functioning board which is very collaborative.”

They have also established a logo for the alliance and are about to launch a website to give them a more prominent public face.

“We needed to get the back-end connected to make sure that we are really strong from day one. So that it’s a proper industry representative association, with a membership system, which connects to CRM that connects to the accounting system and it connects to event management.”

The Alliance also has numerous working and action groups focused on a range of areas from marketing to finance, all made up of volunteers. So far, they have forty members generated through their foundational stage and capital city forums. Bartlett says already this number represents a significant percentage of repairs in Australia. They will also be looking to upcoming events in Canberra and Adelaide to further grow the representation of the industry.

One of the Alliance’s strengths is its membership has a broad representation of the industry from workshops to suppliers, consulting firms, insurers and other connected industries.

Bartlett stresses the Alliance’s success will be in being a cohesive ‘whole of industry’ approach and representing all levels of businesses in the quest for increased recruitment.

“It’s not about the big end of town. There are memberships for smaller members, it’s affordable and available to all sorts of shops and industry members,” he says.

“We want to see people come into the industry into well run, well organised, well-resourced, well-trained organisations and do whatever we can do to help the industry to know how to attract and retain people. Interestingly a lot of the small shops are really good at it and that’s because they have a good ‘ground game’, and we want to learn a lot from those little shops as well.”

If the smaller shops are at the heart of the industry, the recruitment issue has much wider implications because of the wide network of dependant businesses.

“There is a task of fixing about one and a half million cars a year and you need a lot of people to fix a million and a half cars. It’s all of those connected businesses, all the parts businesses, the paint businesses, the chemical businesses, the consultants and safety consultants and downstream to insurance. It is that kid coming through the front door of the workshop that is the only thing keeping that entire network of businesses actually operative.”


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