The automotive industry's shortage of professional technicians is as much about recruitment and retention as about training. But it's even more about the next generation filling those jobs.
As the industry grows, 10,118 new positions are expected to be created annually through the year 2012.
Layer in older technicians retiring, new employees who aren't skilled enough yet, veterans who leave the industry or move to another job within the industry, and you have an additional 21,769 jobs to fill each year.
How are dealers going to get and keep not only more, but better technicians — who are professional, self-motivated and service-oriented — to fill the annual demand of nearly 32,000? Where will they come from?
With an estimated 2.7 million students graduating from U.S. high schools this year, there is a significant pool of potential technicians available in Generation Y. The industry's ability to attract these candidates will depend on effectively relaying the excitement of technology-based careers and the tremendous earning potential, while also eliminating past stereotypes still being echoed by their teachers, school counselors, parents and friends.
The youth of today are looking for something different and there are a lot of them. Eighty million young Generation Y people are part of the Echo Boom — even larger than the Baby Boom. There are more of them, and according to our research, they're savvy, smart and maturing faster than we did. Ninety percent of them use the Internet; watch less television than their parents; are mentally active; and communicate constantly with e-mail, instant messaging, cell phones and text messages. Their attitudes, values and desires will shape the future.
A better understanding of who they are and what they want will attract and keep members of this dynamic group as employees at your dealership serving customers' needs.
So, meet your new Generation Y technicians:
They are heavily influenced by their friends and peers, but also look to their parents for advice on career matters. That makes it essential to present an accurate and attractive vision of the automotive service industry.
They recognize that the key to their success is through advanced learning. But they want to be treated as individuals, not numbers. So, they're looking for an education that is individualized, practical and convenient, with role models and mentors to guide them, and plenty of regular feedback and reinforcement.
- Real Life
They expect their education to be clearly relevant, as those who drop out do so because there isn't a clear connection between what they are being taught and future job expectations. This requires all levels of the industry — from manufacturers to dealers to educators — to cooperatively develop a curriculum that provides both the latest content as well as applied real-world experiences.
They are goal-oriented and expect to be successful, so they are motivated by the realistic prospect of job growth and significant financial rewards.
They are usually passionate about what they do, so they want to work with teams of other highly motivated people.
They want a fun work environment, with a good variety of projects.
It seems so easy: plenty of jobs and plenty of candidates needing only a strong connection to bring them together. To attract and keep these candidates, dealers must respect and embrace the Generation Y values, which must be woven into the fabric of their training and employment programs.
Present the industry in a more accurate and inviting way. Teach these employees in the manner through which they learn best. Give them a clear vision of their career path. Stimulate them in a team-oriented work environment. Provide them with individual guidance and encouragement along the way.
Dealers who do that will successfully recruit this talented generation to become a productive part of their workforces.
Kimberly J. McWaters is President and CEO of Universal Technical Institute, Inc., one of the nation's leading providers of automotive technical training.