Auto Service World
Feature   August 2, 2019   by Allan Janssen

Technician Shortage: There is no “master key”

By Allan Janssen

The Automotive Service Association held a ‘Talent Recruitment & Retention’ Panel Discussion at its annual meeting at the end of April in Dallas.

I must admit that I was hit by a wave of skepticism when it was announced. This wasn’t the first such panel I’d been invited to… and I’m sure it wasn’t the last.

At each panel, workshop, or symposium dedicated to this persistent problem, I’d sit on the edge of my chair, pencil poised for a brilliant solution to reveal itself. But after 90 minutes of comments and responses, with the tone in the room slowly rising to full-on frustration, I would leave without any new wisdom to pass on to you.

The answer had evaded us once again, I would think.

Now I see that I was thinking about this problem all wrong.

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the current shortage of skilled labour. Even if you put together a superstar panel of technicians, shop owners, experts, and consultants, you still won’t find something that works for everyone.

I’ve come to realize that the point of all these meetings, conferences, panels, and forums is not to find THE solution. It is to find Asolution. A solution that fits your shop, in your community, appealing to your labour market.

This most recent panel, organized by ASA, was led by Jeremy O’Neal, owner of AdvisorFix, and Tony Molla, ASA’s vice president for industry relations. They’re both great guys who are committed to the industry. But they didn’t bring the answer to the tech shortage problem. If they had the answer, they’d have delivered it long ago… and probably gotten rich from it.

They never promised a one-size-fits-all answer. They understand that there are many different strategies for solving this problem. You’ve heard some of those, but not all of them. And there are variations on those themes, some of them not even fully worked out yet. It goes without saying that each strategy will work for a subset of shops, and each variation will attract only certain potential technicians.

We are faced with multiple locks on multiple doors and a keychain full of random keys.

There is no master key, folks.

The benefit of a forum where all the available keys are examined one by one is that you will hear some of the strategies that have worked for some shops. If it won’t work for you, that’s fine. Maybe a variation will work for you. Or maybe something entirely different. It is certainly possible that complementary pieces of several different approaches will turn out to be exactly what you need.

The trick is to keep listening and apply what you think will work for you.

As Molla put it, the forum was designed “to provide one or two nuggets that will help get a handle on where to find the talent we need to succeed.”

Success is finding a nugget or two. Pick up enough nuggets and you’ll have an ounce of gold to take to the bank.


Please tell me what you think. Write to me at