The global recession has reduced consumer spending, meaning South Africans are holding on to their cars for longer. Good news for private workshops, but there's a huge demand for staff to be up skilled for modern technology.Local car sales might be up by three percent from the 2012 first quarter but the global recession has reduced consumer spending significantly. This trend has affected the South African motor industry with owners keeping vehicles for longer.The result means generic workshops are in demand after manufacturers' warranties expire and now need more skilled staff.SKILLS DEVELOPMENTIt’s been a rough few years in the industry for independent repair shops and many had to close down but, for the survivors, there's now a skill shortage. Goch and Cooper Autoservices MD Deon Goch says, as withother industries in South Africa, workshop owners are faced with a huge skills shortage. "It's a headache trying to find staff and head-hunting has become the norm. Workshop owners need to train their current staff and identify their skill gaps." Due to advanced technology vehicles have become more complex over the years with electronic components. Mechanics who are now expected received training several years ago are now also expected to be service engineers with the ability to operate at complex, technical levels.FOCUS SHIFTLes McMaster, chairman of the Motor Workshop Industry Association: "We believe auto workshop owners will need to shift their focus from merely retaining customers to offering a multi-skilled experts who can advise on and service vehicles across-the-board.”Aftermarket auto shops have to depend on technical manuals, manufacturers' service information and the internet for updated technical specs and fault identification to remain competitive against OEM dealers."Until recently there has been no further training available in South Africa for the generic mechanic once he has qualified, unless of course he has had OEM specific training," McMaster said. Diagnostic equipment helps but can only do so much, which is why the MIWA approached American training company Delmar at the Specialty Equipment Market Association show in Las Vegas in 2011. The appeal was for Delmar to host its ground-breaking automotive technician training program in South Africa. Mc aster says the MIWA was looking for a training programme that satisfied two major criteria: a list of 13 aspects that would cover technical knowhow on a vehicle from bumper to bumper and course material that included the latest cars but was not brand-specific. Delmar already has a Master Technician course that could easily be customised to fit the local environment. GOOD NEWSMcMaster says the course takes mechanical and electronic car knowledge to a whole new level and is unique in that it features both online pre-and post-assessments, skill-based CD/DVD training courses, reference books and hands-on exercise annuals. The training programme is designed to be completed within three years and is divided into 12 subjects, with a maximum of three months allowed per subject. Students would already have to be qualified mechanics, automotive electricians, machinist or fitters. Depending on the number of chapters per module, students are required to do a series of examinations, followed by a final end-of-module online test and demands a minimum 80% score. The material includes voice-overs and line wording; although theory-based, the visuals are attentive to detail. The material is updated annually as technology advances so students are assured of being exposed to the latest industry developments.McMaster said: “The skills shortage we are facing in South Africa is real. This programme aims to address this shortage in the motor industry. Vehicle owners want the best service for the least money and a turnaround time that provides the least inconvenience."With today's vehicles demanding more training and greater specialisation, mechanics are going to have to continuously adapt to changing technologies. So, if the value of a good mechanic is based on the extent of his limited basic skills and knowledge, then the value of a Master Technician will be priceless."