Retirement, lack of training, and poor professional image are creating a nationwide shortage of automotive technicians. Many dealers are already feeling the strain.
The United States Department of Labor estimates the shortage to be nearing 100,000, a significant increase over last years' figure of 60,000.
Why is it a never-ending battle to recruit employees to fill technician positions? Why are dealers continually advertising for qualified service technicians?
Servicing autos could be a lucrative career for many of the nation's young people, but a negative opinion of the industry is preventing it. It's almost as if that song is, “Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Auto Technicians.”
The industry is demanding a higher-level employee than it did a generation ago. More technologically advanced vehicles require more technologically skilled service personnel. Yet it is difficult to recruit a computer-literate student with good grades into a dealership, even one equipped with cutting-edge information technology and equipment.
The dealership is no longer just about a job on the lube rack. It is about schematic diagrams, computer-based programming, high-tech diagnostic equipment and extensive documentation requirements.
The industry must reach beyond the outdated perception of the auto dealership, and provide parents, young adults and educators with information on the lucrative career possibilities that are available.
Auto Retailing Today commissioned a national survey to determine youths' and adults' perceptions of automotive careers. Here are some of the findings:
- 78% of the teachers and 52% of the guidance counselors had not discussed the value of an automotive job with students.
- Nearly 60% of the teens knew that auto techs were in high demand, only 53% of their parents knew.
- Half of the students said they would expect a negative reaction from their friends if they took a position in sales or finance & insurance at a dealership.
- 46% of the students expect the same negative reaction about a dealership job as a service technician.
- 69% of the teens knew that a master technician could earn $70,000 to $100,000 per year.
- Only 2% of the students surveyed said they had an interest in an automotive career.
Bottom line: Students interested in an automotive career are being directed elsewhere by parents, teachers and counselors. Apparently an automotive career is not considered a good enough profession even though many white-collar professionals with college degrees are not earning the $70,000-$100,000 a year that some auto technicians are.
Dealership service technicians are no longer grease monkeys. More time is spent working on electronic components and systems than on greasy auto parts.
Many service departments in franchised dealerships are equipped with the latest in diagnostic and computer equipment. They are in clean, well-lit and organized facilities. Most dealership service departments maintain high standards. Dark, cluttered and dirty environments are becoming a thing of the past.
It would seem that automotive dealerships have challenges ahead: a huge shortage of qualified technicians coupled with a negative stigma of the profession.
Take a walk through your service department. If you were a young adult starting out in the work force, would you want to work there? What can your dealership offer a new employee? Does your dealership offer a positive work environment, good salaries, decent benefits and intellectual stimulation?
Do your part to change the negative image of the profession.
Kristen San Miguel is with Auburn Hills, MI-based J&L Warranty Pros, a firm that helps dealerships get maximum reimbursement from repair work performed under factory warranties.