What is the career path of a new automotive technician in your shop? That’s a question Maylan Newton, a shop coach and chief executive officer of Educational Seminars Institute, wants every shop owner, manager and leader in the aftermarket to think about.
If the answer can be presented to aspiring technicians, maybe then will the industry have a better chance of retaining them.
“What’s the end result going to be? Can you tell me what the end picture looks like; what I’m going to be like in 35 or 40 years?” Newton said, taking the position of an entry-level technician, during a session he hosted at this fall’s Automotive Aftermarket of Ontario Symposium in Mississauga, Ontario.
Someone in the audience, perhaps in an attempt to be funny or simply speaking the blunt truth, responded “broken.” They’re not wrong, Newton acknowledged.
“This is physically difficult — knees, backs, shoulders. I mean, think about us old guys in this business — we have lots of aches and pain. Even some of the young folks do. That’s not very attractive,” he said.
And that’s the story being told to the outside world. “Our industry hasn’t done a good job of developing career paths,” Newton said.
Recently, someone who attended one of his sessions told him that they dodged a bullet because their kid doesn’t want to get into the aftermarket. “So here’s a father who’s in the industry who doesn’t want his kid to get into the industry. That says a lot about us, doesn’t it, as an industry?”
“It’s a dirty industry. It’s not technologically advanced. They don’t make any money. Well, those are all falsehoods. But who’s telling them it’s false? Nobody.”
And what do parents and guidance counsellors at school think about automotive repair? “It’s a dirty industry. It’s not technologically advanced. They don’t make any money,” Newton listed. “Well, those are all falsehoods. But who’s telling them it’s false? Nobody.”
Something else that scares off people from the industry is the tools and equipment that new technicians need to invest in. The start-up costs are unique; a technician’s toolbox is far more vast than a plumber’s or electrician’s.
But the industry needs creative ways to work around this, Newton stressed. He gave an example of a client of his in the U.S. where the shop owner gave an apprentice a full toolbox. All the tools were his to use. There’d be an accounting of every tool; if something went missing or broke, the apprentice would be responsible for it. But if he stayed a certain number of years, all of the tools were his to keep. They also took him to training events to expand his knowledge.
By doing so, this shop has not only attracted a new person to the industry but alleviated the biggest problem most people have — the initial investment in tools. They’ve also invested in his training.
“This kid thinks these people are angels. They have standards for him,” Newton said. “They made an investment and this young person is going to be there a long time. Why are we so afraid to make that investment?”