Did it ever occur to you that stability might be the strongest selling point for recruiting new talent into the auto repair trade? Here's why you should be broadcasting this point—if you aren't already doing so.
During the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week trade shows in Las Vegas last month, I bumped into Paul Grech, owner of Allied Engine & Auto Repair in San Francisco. Some readers may recognize the name: Mr. Grech is the cantankerous and outspoken author of a book entitled, So You Want To Be An Automotive Technician.
Although the book is really written for aspiring technicians, it's been a hit with anyone I know in this industry who has read it.
Mr. Grech has operated Allied Engine at the same address since the early 1970s and has prospered in spite of stiff competition and severe changes in customer demographics. Besides participating in several trade organizations, he has worked at a variety of grassroots approaches for recruiting new blood and promoting careers in auto repair.
I happened to mention that I found an article I had written 18 years ago to the month stating that service shop owners and managers would always be competing with factories and mills for able-bodied employees. Mr. Grech countered with a comment like, "That was then, this is now."
He urged me to consider how many American jobs had disappeared due to relatively cheap foreign labor. Since I wrote the article 18 years ago, nearly every working adult has seen the impact of cheaper foreign labor. Simply put, most of us have been touched in some way by America's transition to a more service-oriented economy.
"Everywhere I travel people, especially younger workers, are concerned about stability. They tell me they look at their parents' and grandparents' work histories and long for the days when a person could build a career with one company," he explained.
In case you haven't noticed, swing music is enjoying an incredible resurgence in popularity across the country, especially with the "Generation X" crowd. Certainly this music is fun, exciting and uniquely American. But Mr. Grech asserts there's another element to the nostalgia associated with the music of another generation.
"I've asked a lot of these kids why older music, older cars etc. appeal to them so much. They often emphasize that they associate the music with a simpler, more-stable time," Mr. Grech stated. "This includes a time of relatively predictable careers and stable employment."
Mr. Grech stressed that whether he's working on technician recruitment with a trade group or a local vocational school, he always emphasizes the stability a good auto repair job offers. In a nutshell, it's nearly impossible to take auto repair jobs offshore or south of the border. When a vehicle breaks down on Main Street, U.S.A., the owner expects it to be repaired right now and right here.
Meanwhile, service shop and tire dealership owners nationwide are clamoring for capable technicians, especially younger talent eager to build a career. What's more, Mr. Grech's comments reminded me that I'm meeting technicians who left other jobs for the challenge and relative security of the auto repair business. Their attitudes echo Mr. Grech's philosophy.
"Sooner or later all cars need repair and someone has to do the work," they tell me.
Frankly I didn't appreciate the significance of these techs' remarks until Mr. Grech gave me a fresh perspective. Now I'm urging all owners and managers to exploit and capitalize on the relative stability our industry can offer potential recruits.
True, auto repair work is physically and mentally more demanding than most "rote" or routine factory jobs. But it's also fun and stimulating simply because it's so challenging.
When I was turning wrenches, the only thing I could count on was that the next repair job and the next would be just different enough to keep the work interesting.
Because of the job stability issue, sometimes the baby-boomer parents of a potential young hire are the biggest obstacles to recruiting new talent. Consequently, auto repair could be unexpectedly good music to their ears.