By Sean Reyes, Chief Marketing Officer, Recall Masters
According to an article in MarketSource, past NADA Chairman, Charlie Gilchrist estimates that within the 16,500 dealership members, 76,000 technicians will be needed by 2026.
There is a large pool of existing technicians who are at are near retirement age and few young people that are interested in working in the automotive field as a technician. Automotive dealers have a tough time finding qualified new technicians and some simply cannibalize the competition’s staff by offering more attractive pay.
In my opinion, the lack of interest from young people is due to negative perceptions about the job and the career path. We’re also not doing a great job communicating the financial rewards that are possible. A great technician can make amazing money without having to invest in a college degree or get saddled with a ton of debt. In short, the lack of enthusiasm has more to do with a lack of education about the industry and the potential the position provides. An effort needs to be made to reach out to these young people.
On that note, I love this hypothetical (and extreme) job description on Wrenchway.com:
“Become a technician! You can expect a rewarding career in which you will work long hours (but may or may not get paid for all of them), you will work in a modern facility built in 1925 with three inches of oil dry on the floor in an area in which everything is dirty and you cannot find anything you are looking for and may get hurt tripping on something looking for the thing you will never find. The general public will assume you are a crook trying to fix things that don’t need to be fixed just to get more money from the customer. Your manager will second guess everything you diagnose and repair. You will receive factory training each year so you can try and better recoup some of the hours you don’t get paid for at a flat rate. You will eat or starve based on which service writer you get (and you better hope you get one that can actually sell or you’ll never make any money). The rest of the dealership will ignore you, never consider you for promotion, and rarely even acknowledge your existence. You will bust your fingers, knuckles, head, develop back problems, and more! Almost forgot, and you need to spend about $30,000 dollars on your own tools! Good Luck!”
For those in the job market today seeking a career path, this wouldn’t be very appealing… for many reasons! What was intended to be a gross exaggeration doesn’t fall too far from the truth and sheds light on the areas we need to improve if we are to recruit the next generation of young people to the industry.
So, what is to be done. I always like to look to winners in our industry for inspiration. One dealer in Texas found a solution that is working for his dealership. That is to teach the value and benefits of a career as an automotive technician while the students are still young. According to Automotive News, to date, Toyota of Cedar Park has secured 24 service technicians by working with local high schools and offering training and internship programs to high school students. In a partnership with several high schools, the dealership offers internship programs where students visit the dealership three days a week for two hours. The dealership gets a head start by showing these students the value of choosing a career as a technician, while they can also begin training and evaluating these students. According to the article, the program has a 97 percent retention rate.
There could be several such sources for potential technicians if you are willing to get creative and step outside the box a little. From OEM training programs to universities that have automotive-specific degrees (including Northwood University). It’s no secret that many organizations and industries are struggling with recruiting talent, particularly those where the barriers of entry appear insurmountable for young people. Here are a couple of items that need to change to recruit more technicians:
• Remove the cost of tools. When I was in high school shop, we shared the tools. As students, we took pride in keeping our shop clean, tools at the ready, and organized so that we could be as efficient as possible. We need to teach these skills too.
• Offer competitive starting pay. Fast food retail outlets are pushing $25/hour offers to young kids. For those contemplating a career in automotive, give them a reason to start early without taking a financial hit.
• Recruit more young women. We’re missing out on half the potential candidates when we solely focus on their male counterparts.
• Recruit like a tech company. Tomorrow’s technicians are going to require computer and electronics skills too. Does your shop reflect professionalism and serve as a backdrop for future engineers?
• Map out a career path for new recruits. Illustrate the income path, what new skills they’ll learn along the way, and where they’ll receive additional support and training.
• Create roles and tasks for new recruits, especially for those who are early achievers. It’s possible to place one of your rising stars in a mobile tech van to do nothing but swap out recalled airbags. Reward early and often.
In addition to posting a job description on Indeed, why not nurture interest in unexpected places and find individuals that may not yet have thought about becoming a technician, while it could be a great career path for them.
There are many opportunities to reach out to young people and share why becoming a technician is something they should consider. It just takes a little more creativity and thinking outside the box.
About the Author
Sean Reyes oversees all marketing efforts at Recall Masters as Chief Marketing Officer. Sean’s experience spans more than 25 years of business development and strategic marketing experience, having worked in the automotive, healthcare, finance, and technology industries to serve customers like American Express, Toshiba, Western Digital, Cox Communications, Gateway, Novartis, Microsoft, IBM, Compaq, HP, Confident Financial Solutions, MyCustomerData, Toyota of Orange, and Fletcher Jones Mercedes Benz. While he has an accomplished portfolio of design, production, and coding skills, his strength is in “go-to-market” business modeling and digital marketing strategies.