Training a technician can be a costly investment. However, re-training a technician and tailoring their talents to manufacturers' specifications can be a bigger challenge.
The reality is, finding a new tech fresh out of high school is the most cost-efficient way to bolster your service department for the long haul.
I've owned dealerships and have witnessed “the swap.” A technician, frustrated with his job at Dealership A, quits and moves on to Dealership B, complete with an attitude that might prove detrimental to profitability.
Good techs are hard to find, so hiring one with experience might seem like a time saver. However, I recommend that you “grow your own.” When you cultivate your own talent early on, you lessen the dangers of hiring the wrong technician and hurting the core of your business.
Getting and keeping customers is a known battle in our industry. Once you've handed over the sold vehicles' keys and customers drive off the lot, their next experience with you probably is for a first oil change or repair.
Repairs and maintenance are an inconvenience for busy customers. It is crucial that your customer's experience is hassle-free from start to finish. Your service staff is part of this transition from first-time customer to life-long customer. An ideal service department employee has the perfect mix of technical knowledge, ambition and customer-relations skills.
To find this job candidate, consider hiring a technician from your local high school's automotive program. If the instructor or administration hasn't already reached out to you, call to discover the possibilities.
Stop by the school and check out the instructional lab. Chat with the students. You'll likely see that, not only are they eager, they are at a point where they can be molded into the right kind of technician you need in your service department.
They carry no baggage or extra expenses to pay. By opening your doors of opportunity and providing internships to students prior to graduation, you can rely on your master techs to teach them techniques and specifications before they're ready to go full-time.
With a classroom full of candidates, how do you find the right ones? How do you know that a high school student will have what it takes to impact your bottom line?
The automotive instructor can be your biggest asset toward selecting the right student.
Many times, an automotive education curriculum is complemented with a “soft skills” development program where students learn basic employability skills, such as good manners and the right attitude. You will want a student that conveys enthusiasm about what he or she already knows and enthusiasm about learning more from you and your staff.
You will want to involve a student who has aspirations to go to manufacturer-specific training and continue their education. Employing technicians who regularly update their skills and learn about the latest auto technologies are vital to your success.
An important part of your commitment to local emerging talent is to tell customers about it. Display posters in your dealership that tell of your interest in continuing your staff's education and your involvement in local schools. Watch how it enhances your reputation.
Make information available to your clientele so that they can consider getting their son or daughter involved in automotive technology. Tell them what a great career option it is and how your dealership might be the place to embark on a rewarding career in automotive technology.
It's a wonderful way to help others and help your dealership.
Larry Cummings is president and CEO of Automotive Youth Educational Systems (AYES), a partnership of auto makers and dealers. Its mentoring program places nearly 2,000 entry-level technicians in dealerships every year.