Auto Service World
News   January 11, 2024   by Erin Vaughan

From the Magazine: The biggest issue we’re facing

Shop owners need to find technicians. There isn’t a lot of them. How do we find them? Here’s how we can start

As a shop owner, December is a great time to sit down and reflect on your successes from the past year, as well as the challenges you have faced. You can assess which plans worked out, which ones had to be adjusted and which ones will be transferred to next year.

This is also a great time to solidify your 2024 plan and ensure you are on track to achieve your goals in the coming year.

When it comes to challenges this year, one stands out the most: Our technician shortage. How are we going to attract people to this amazing career?

Perhaps we should spend some time reflecting on what inspired us to join this industry ourselves. Also, we should think about where we can find our future techs to let them know about this great career option.

My journey into this industry was not typical: I was a 26-year-old woman with no automotive experience or interest in working on vehicles. I was, however, looking for a career that challenged me, allowed me the opportunity to problem solve and kept me physically moving — the idea of being stuck behind a desk all day was not appealing.

The people looking for careers with these qualifications are our techs and we need to be open to giving them an opportunity and hiring them. Whether they are female or male, BIPOC or white, farm or city kid, mechanically inclined or technologically minded, these are the people who will help us build great businesses.

Once they’re hired, we need to support their journey by providing them with quality education, experience and a safe environment to work in, physically and emotionally. Most importantly, they need to be paid fairly, given the flexibility to allow for a healthy work/life balance, have access to health benefits and be treated like valued members of our teams — because they are.

The people looking for careers with these qualifications are our techs and we need to be open to giving them an opportunity and hiring them.

Is your shop an attractive option for an aspiring tech or a 15-year journeyperson — who has many other options — here are a few questions you can ask yourself:

  • Do I charge enough to ensure I can pay a fair wage with benefits?
  • Am I profitable enough to purchase the tools required to do the job right?
  • Do I have the ability to pay for ongoing education for all staff members?
  • Have I created a shop culture where everyone is treated with respect?
  • Do I have SOPs that allow staff to know what their responsibilities are and how to carry out tasks?
  • Would I want to work here?

The answer to that last one is most important. If the answer is no, you have some work to do. If you don’t want to work there, why would anyone else? If you have answered yes to the above questions, you have made it through half the battle. Now it’s time to find your techs.

Historically, I have posted on job search and social media platforms with little success. I recently reached out to a trades-specific recruiting company in the hopes that I could pay someone to search for a tech for me. Unfortunately, this company told me that they don’t recruit automotive service technicians — there are so few of us and they only get paid when they make a successful placement.

What this tells me is that we’ll be growing our own techs, which is an expense that we need to account for in 2024. To find these apprentices, I will be reaching out to local high schools that have automotive classes and the automotive service department of Saskatchewan Polytechnic with the hope that they will allow me to come into their classrooms and present to their students.

If we can get in front of these students before they enter the workforce, we have the opportunity to show young people that this is an awesome career, with new and exciting opportunities to learn and grow. We can showcase our facilities and the incredible work we have done to create an environment where they can feel successful in their careers as automotive service technicians.

This is the best time to be in the automotive service industry. We can provide our clients with safe and reliable transportation at a much more affordable price than new vehicle payments. We can provide our staff with long-term careers (artificial intelligence isn’t going to start replacing brake pads anytime soon). And we can provide ourselves with successful businesses that will afford us the opportunity to retire one day.

Ultimately, everyone wants to feel like they get up every day to do something they’re great at, so let’s build those opportunities and raise the standard in our industry to create a sustainable future for all of us.

Erin Vaughan is the owner of Kinetic Auto Service in Regina

This article originally appeared in the December issue of CARS magazine.

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