Where can tire dealers find prospective new hires with that old-fashioned, fire-in-the-belly work ethic?
The best place to find them might be among the newest arrivals to our country and industry—immigrant technicians.
In my last column, I discussed the common lament bosses make about finding reliable people who actually want to work for a living. Sadly, many Tire Business readers probably have their favorite war story about promising new hires they couldn't rely on to show up for work, let alone show up on time.
Some of the most-favorable comments I've received from owners and managers around the country concern new arrivals from countries as varied as Russia, Vietnam, Antigua, India, Ireland, Lebanon and China. Bosses often describe a two-fold bottom line on these fellows. First, they're grateful for an opportunity to build a career. Second, they come from cultures where hard work is the norm and people take pride in their work.
Unfortunately, some owners and managers don't recognize potential when they see it.
Perhaps they're too busy making racist, jingoistic remarks about these newcomers. First of all, it was only a few generations ago that my ancestors were new arrivals to a highly technical trade (building locomotives for the Pennsylvania Railroad).
Second, everyone agrees the automotive repair trade sorely needs new talent. Common sense dictates that we recruit good people wherever we can find them.
Do you hear anyone scorning the powerhouse New York Yankees for recruiting Latin American players? Love them or hate them, the Yankees want to win. A little of that take-no-prisoners attitude would really benefit some service shop operators I've met!
Furthermore, my training activities have given me a very positive gut feeling about the dedication of the vast majority of aspiring techs I meet from other countries. I've said many times in previous columns that if you want to find the best or the most-dedicated local talent, you'll find them enrolled in the nearest training class.
For openers, I'm floored at the number of immigrant people who attend classes in spite of the fact that they're still learning to speak English. These techs tell me the very process of listening to an American teacher helps build their vocabulary of automotive terms as well as non-automotive words.
Many of them say they work on unfamiliar words in the training material for days on end with a dictionary (for example, a Spanish/English dictionary) until they master the entire vocabulary in it. That's dedication!
Many immigrant techs have emphasized to me that the pictures and illustrations they see in training seminars are universal and really need no translation.
My, what a stark contrast (I dare not say comparison) to the crybabies who constantly whine that they don't attend because they just don't get anything out of training classes. But don't worry—those "furriners" you mock will soon be technically smarter than you are, not to mention the fact that someday they'll probably speak English better than you do.
There's another observation that reinforces my gut feeling about the dedication of immigrant techs. Sometimes, training classes are scheduled in hotel conference rooms. If there's liquor to be found in that hotel, some attendees will find it. Instead of being in class, they're holding up the bar all night. Or they try to bring several bottles of beer to their place in the seminar room.
And where are the immigrant techs in this situation?
Front and center in the meeting room, sober as judges and eagerly hanging on every word the teacher utters. So which is the better prospect for your dealership's service department: The guy in the front row of the class or the guy holding the bar up all night?
True, some immigrant techs work in horrible shops that hurt our image and our value by charging dirt-cheap prices. We don't need that kind of unprofessional competition.
But that said, don't overlook the potential of conscientious immigrant techs who are willing to put in an honest day's work. These are the caliber of workers who are the future of your service department.