SAN ANTONIO – Help wanted: An analytical thinker to act like a car dealership’s business partner. That’s Scott Brown’s job description of a modern auto technician.
Top-tier mechanics who work on today’s complicated vehicles are critical thinkers, resourceful, highly proficient and interested in a continuous education,” says Brown, president of the International Automotive Technicians Network.
And what do mechanics want in return? Decent wages, sure, and a top tech can make $100,000-plus a year.
But they also want respect. “That’s the biggest thing,” he says. Sometimes technicians don’t get a lot of that at dealerships that tend to focus more on the front end than on the back.
They also want a clean and comfortable work environment. “They don’t want to work in a dungeon or a place that is like a furnace in hot-weather locations,” Brown says here at a DealerSocket User Summit conference session entitled “Finding and Supporting A-Level Service Technicians.”
For years now, car dealers have struggled to find quality technicians with the skills and education necessary to fix modern vehicles.
To ease the labor shortage, dealers have formed partnerships with local community colleges’ automotive vocational programs. In some places, dealers have created their own training facilities, such as the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Assn.’s Center for Automotive Education and Training.
On the other hand, many school systems have eliminated high school industrial arts programs. That’s one reason the job pipeline is running low.
“Pretty much everyone finds it hard to find qualified techs,” Brown says speaking of dealerships, independent shops and national car-repair chains. “Older guys are leaving and there needs to be a transition and a transfer of knowledge.”
He’s a big believer in providing mechanics with an array of resources.
Technician at their work stations should have dual-screen computer monitors (“Going back and forth on one screen is a hassle.”), computer tablets and assistants who help clean up and stock parts, Brown says. “Surgeons come in, do their jobs and leave. They don’t clean up the operating room afterwards.”
Lest technicians having personal assistants may sound overindulgent, Brown says service departments should want top technicians going on to the next job, not sweeping up.
Although today’s highly trained modern car mechanics are a far cry from yesterday’s self-taught grease monkeys, some negative perceptions persist.
It makes it hard to recruit and train talent, Brown says. “A kid tells his parents, ‘I want to be a mechanic?’ What do parents do?” Many times, they try to talk him out of it.
“We’ve got to reboot and make this industry more attractive and rewarding,” Brown says, citing mentorships and apprenticeships as helping there.
Poorly skilled mechanic wannabes need not apply at dealership service departments. But potential employers often woo the top talent. “Some A-level technicians get signing bonuses,” Brown says. “That’s how much they’re in demand.”