With a shortage of technicians, some automotive repair shop owners are poaching technicians from a competitor nearby.
That, warned Mike Coley, president of the ASE Education Foundation, isn’t a strategy that can work forever. Not only is it likely that another shop will poach that tech from you, but this strategy doesn’t help secure the future of the industry.
“Well, that [strategy] only lasts for so long,” he told CARS magazine. “And then there are no more technicians to poach. And besides, the guy you poached six months ago just got poached to go to another shop somewhere else.”
The ASE’s answer to resolving this issue is to make sure that you are finding your own technicians by growing them into your shop from the school level.
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“Build your bench strength. Hire young technicians that are just coming out of school — when you have those folks on staff, they’re more likely to stay with you if you’ve started them from the time they were very young and invested in their careers,” Coley advised.
To enhance those relationships even deeper, have technicians in your shop serve as mentors to prospective technicians while they’re still in school.
“Not only are you there to support the school and to let prospective students [know you’re there] … we need to show them what the career opportunities in the industry are,” Coley said.
By that, he observed the fact that maybe someone doesn’t want to turn a wrench their whole life — but the industry has many other opportunities that also need to be filled, like service writers, managers, parts experts. Having an automotive education opens doors to those opportunities.
“But somebody has got to come tell students and make it known to the students, the parents [and] the counsellors to say that we’ve got lots of opportunities in this training program over here that we support and we’re involved with,” Coley said. “That’s the way into the industry.”
He highlighted the fact that service and repair shops aren’t necessarily competing strictly with dealers down the street or the shop in the next town.
“We’re competing with wind power, with welding, with advanced machining — all the other advanced skilled trades — for the same students that have good mechanical aptitude, enjoy working with their hands and enjoy solving problems for their customers,” Coley explained. “So we’ve got to attract those students and show them the career opportunities that are available in our industry.”