Back to the Future

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hedley 350In these times of change, business owners and managers will need to embrace employee development as much as employees will need to embrace a culture of learning, says the recently appointed Director of the MPEA, Hedley Judd.

Change is a constant in the lives of all of us – nothing ever really remains the same. In keeping with this philosophy, the Motor Parts and Equipment Association (MPEA) is – as of July 1 – part of a coalition of associations that includes the Tyre Dealers’ and Fitment Association (TDAFA) and the Motor Industry Manufacturers’ Association (MIMA).

Benefits of the coalition are considered a medium-term proposition where synergies between supply and demand relating to activities between the associations will be better understood, and from which enhancements to all members are expected to flow.

The synergies will be vested in areas such as spares stockholdings, range development, range availability, service response times and, above all, in the relationships between members of the coalition.

Further change effective from the same date relates to my appointment as director of the MPEA. I have taken over from Erwin Stroebel, who held the reigns in recent years and who has now been appointed regional manager of the RMI in the Eastern Cape/Border region.

One of the most problematic areas related to sectors of the automotive aftermarket remains staffing – with specific reference to the availability of competent or trained staff. There are essentially two major fields in the sectors – technical and soft skills. Each is currently hampered by the number of potential employees available in the market.

The problem raises two issues. The first is an apparent lack of willingness on the part of some businesses to train people who, once qualified, tend to demand higher wages or who decide to leave the company.

The second – which follows on from the first – relates to increased demands from employees who have been formally trained or who are experientially qualified. These two issues affect both the technical and soft skills segments.

At present there are a significant number of courses, programmes, skill sets and learnerships available which focus on technical areas of expertise – in my view worthy of consideration since how often do we hear the cry: “There are no qualified journeymen available in the market?”

In the soft skills sector, a major staff-related area of concern revolves around a forward facing and most central part of the business, the salesperson. Historically, there has been no defined learning path available for salespeople to upskill in specific fields relating to automotive parts, accessories or tyres.

This fact has been noted in the past by the MPEA’s National Executive Committee, which has subsequently focused on developing a qualification that will address all levels of sales processes with a view to delivering a full business management level of expertise. This is a very new project which has only just been launched, and progress and developments will be reported on a regular basis.

Broadly, it is envisaged that the level of change will bring about to participants numerous and varied levels of improvement in the businesses they manage. In this sense trained staff members remain – and always will remain – the biggest assets any business can have.

Accordingly, business owners and managers will need to embrace employee development as much as employees will need to embrace a culture of learning. Tools that will be used facilitate training programmes will include e-Learning platforms – where desktop computers, tablets or even smart phones can be used.

It is only by developing new ideas that we constantly challenge the status-quo of life, business and leisure. The training concept highlighted above will be styled to suit and attract ever needed youth to our industry – the millennials generation.

I believe the MPEA will, in the revised structure of the RMI and through the benefit of the coalition, be in a position to expand its staff footprint by sharing resources within the cluster. It is envisaged that this will position additional staff right at the member interaction level.

For years and years there has been a call by members of the RMI for direct engagement. So this time of change will also provide opportunities for members to be heard, and for their requests to be dealt with by dedicated staff.

At time of writing, the new appointments have yet to be announced – but an action plan is in place and the roles will be filled by experts with a view to delivering and advising on broad areas of the businesses we deal in and cherish.

In the final context of the changing scenario, it would be a mistake not to mention the RMI’s appointment of Julian Pillay as the manager of a very new regulatory compliance portfolio within the organisation.

In his new role, Julian will the link between associations and various statutory organisations to which, as businesses, we must be aware, since it has over the years become increasingly difficult to remain legally compliant given the intensity and number of changes made to regulations.

Herein lies Julian’s expertise. He will sift through the volumes of evolving legislation to provide pertinent and relevant guidance to members of the RMI. The role encompasses the Departments of Labour, Transport, Environmental Affairs, SARS, Energy, Trade and Industry (including ITAC), the SABS, the NRCS, BUSA, NEDLAC and others. In my view, his appointment amounts to a very significant value add for all members of the RMI.

By being a participant in the affairs of the MPEA, TDAFA and MIMA, you will be integral to the bank of knowledge that is shared continuously within the RMI. Belonging is Better Business, because it brings together the industry and guides those ever changing needs that can trip up the unsuspecting businessman.
I look forward to a fantastic time of change.

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