UK biking in skills crisis: Industry voices concern over lack of young people working in motorcycling

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The motorcycle industry is in desperate need of more young people to work as technicians or in dealerships if it wants to survive for future generations, warn UK industry bosses.

“The challenges we face in attracting young people to work in the sector are the same we face in attracting new and young riders,” CEO of the Motorcycle Industry Association (MCIA) Tony Campbell warned. “Over the past two decades, we have been great at servicing an ageing rider community; this in large part is mirrored by our workforce.

“As with attracting new young riders, as a sector we have to be seen to be at the cutting edge of new technology, innovation, and design. In my view, we have an identity problem when it comes to attracting young talent to the industry,” he continued.      

Training the next generation of mechanics

“There is and will continue to be a shortage of skilled resources, which in turn creates a ‘merry-go-round’ with the best people moving about for the highest rates of pay. This is very evident when it comes to skilled technicians,” he continued.

Keen to get more young people involved in the industry, the MCIA teamed up with recruitment firm BikeJobs and the National Motorcycle Dealers Association (NMDA) to create a Careers Hub stand at last November’s Motorcycle Live show at Birmingham’s NEC.

Of the 150 enquiries registered at the event, 78.5% were male and 21.5% were female – with 78% of all respondents being aged between 13 and 30. The largest of these groups was 17-20, who made up 28%.

Young person learning to be a mechanic

“MCIA, along with all its members, is extremely concerned by the situation we are in and will face in the future if we do not act,” Campbell added. “The key stakeholders of the initiative are MCIA, NMDA and manufacturers (plus all other MCIA members), retailers/dealers and any other large employers in the sector.”

The Association say that they want the industry to become an attractive proposition for school leavers with the right skillset and will be working with the Department for Education in schools and colleges to raise awareness of the opportunities motorcycling can offer.

Tony Campbell’s comments were echoed by Head of Operations at the National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA), Symon Cook, who spoke to MCN about what could happen if nothing changes.

Engine work at the Norton factory

“It’s going to fail and it’s going to disappear and that’s certainly not what any of us want. We need action and we need it now,” he said. “We’re behind the times and within the next two years we need to really accelerate our idea of how we recruit and how we drive an interest into the motorcycle industry.”

One of the reasons suggested for a lack of uptake in young people is the complexity and cost of the current motorbike licensing system, with an A1 licence allowing you to ride a 14.8bhp 125 at 17, an A2 licence then allowing you to ride up to 47bhp at 19, with the full A licence available at 21 at the earliest (providing you’ve already completed your A2).

“Thirty years ago, we used to have young lads who wanted a motorbike and wanted to work in a motorbike shop. Some of the guys we employed years ago have gone on to quite good things. It got you a good work ethic and got you into a business working with people,” says Philip Youles, the driving force of Youles Triumph Manchester and Blackburn, and Youles Honda in Manchester.

Triumph are moving some production back to the UK

“Streamlining the licensing laws and making it easier for youngsters to get on bikes [would help]. We’ve got apprentices who can’t ride the products they are working on which seems a bit stupid,” he continued. “You always have to be a little bit keener to do a bike test. There’s not normally a lot of parental encouragement. You’ve got to want to do it but it’s almost impossible [now] to explain to people how to do it.”

Someone who was determined enough to get on two wheels and break into the industry is 18-year-old Angus Acton, who’s been a technician at Billy’s Motorcycles in Pulborough for around a year.

He told MCN: “I was brought up around motorbikes and I enjoy fixing things. I went to college and did my Level Two motorcycle course, which was probably the best thing for me to ever do.

Angus Acton loves his job in the bike industry

“I just wanted to get into the world of motorbikes. “It’s bloody lovely. I think it’s the best job I’ve ever had,” he continued. “I may only be 18, but I’ve actually had nine jobs. I always struggle to find somewhere I enjoy but since joining the trade I’ve loved every single day of it.”

What the motorbike manufacturers say

We asked a cross section of manufacturers what they were doing to foster the next generation of industry talent.


Norton HQ Solihull

Rob Ridgeway, Head of HR at Norton Motorcycles said: “Everything from production, supply chain, design and our commercial team is in a position where we want to fill roles. This demand will only increase in line with the growth of the company.

“We’ve recognised gaps in how we’ve previously communicated with potential employees. In short, if young people don’t know we exist, they’ll never know about the opportunities we have for them. We’ll implement a standalone, career-focussed social media strategy this year that addresses this.

“We’re focussing on aligning our employee value proposition to attract a younger demographic of workforce. This includes graduates and apprentices, both of which we’ll be launching formal schemes for this year.

“We also regularly run an intern programme as well as work experience placements and we’ll be attending colleges and universities on a talent attraction programme to improve applications for this across 2023.”


Kawasaki showed developments on an H2 engine

A Kawasaki spokesperson said: “For some years now our industry has faced difficulties attracting and training new, highly motivated young people, especially into dealership and technician roles.

“Presently, motorcycle technician apprenticeships are only available from a limited number of manufacturers and specialist training providers, creating a barrier for dealerships not aligned to these franchises to recruit trainee technicians.

“We are fully engaged with the MCIA’s initiative to create a wider spread of apprenticeship training providers across the whole of the motorcycle industry. Whilst we welcome all ages in this industry, we hope this careers and apprenticeship drive by the MCIA will attract new young talent to our sector.”


Youles Honda showroom

Honda’s Business Planning and Sales Operations Manager, Andrew Mineyko added: “From a dealership point of view we have an award-winning apprentice technician programme and ongoing certified training courses run through the network and our own training institute.

“Some of these techs have gone on to work in our British Superbikes race team, join us at head office or flourish at their dealerships. 

“From a sales perspective, we’ve recently launched a new salesperson training course that welcomes newcomers into the industry and gets them off on the right foot in conjunction with their dealership. This course can lead to an industry recognised qualification which they can take further down the line if they wish.”

BMW Motorrad

Devising parts to print at the track

A spokesperson from BMW said: “BMW Motorrad UK has a well-established and very successful apprenticeship scheme to support those interested in building a career within the motorcycle industry.

“With both technical and customer service apprenticeships available, the three-year Motorrad technical programme provides successful apprentices with IMIAL Level 2 and 3 diplomas, as well as on-the-job training with a particular emphasis on electronics and cutting-edge technology.

“We believe it is important to provide those undertaking the apprenticeship scheme with a mentor to oversee work-based learning, with further classroom sessions delivered at the purpose-built BMW Group Training Academy. BMW Motorrad UK also provide an internship scheme for students during university placement years.

“The year-long internship provides students with the opportunity to be a part of the team working within the sales and marketing functions of a manufacturer before completing their final year of studies.”


Triumph moto2 engine in factory

Devron Boulton, General Manager for Triumph Motorcycles UK & Ireland said: “Triumph is committed to growing and developing talent in the motorcycle industry, and we have a strong pipeline of apprenticeships and industrial placement schemes, as well as entry level and graduate roles at our headquarters in Hinckley.

“For many of the employees who follow this path, this is a vocation and not just a job, so their passion emanates through our entire business and can be seen in the bikes we design and build. 

“Supporting potential students who live in areas where there is low participation in higher education, we are working with Loughborough University to provide engineering scholarships. Through this partnership, we hope to enable these students to advance their education by attending university where they otherwise may not have been able to do so and for them to be supported through their studies by our Triumph Engineering Mentor Scheme.

“Nationally, we are working with our dealer network to actively support the recruitment of young retail and technical staff through dedicated initiatives like the dealer apprentice training scheme. We are committed to supporting the MCIA’s recruitment drive, which provided a dedicated jobs hub at last year’s Motorcycle Live. 

“Attracting and retaining younger staff remains a huge challenge for the industry, and at Triumph we are always open to more opportunities to encourage and develop new talent.”