School days are upon us again. That means it's time to either involve yourself in a local automotive school and improve it.
Or you can spend another year griping about its graduates.
Forward-thinking tire dealers who want to compete in the automotive service arena know the only choice here is to get involved by joining or working with a school's advisory committee. Here's why the decision serves the community, the industry and your own selfish interests.
First of all, let's not kid anyone, especially ourselves. Owners and managers in the auto repair trade love to wail about the substandard hiring prospects local trade schools send them. The difference between winners and losers in this industry is that the winners are doing something to improve the situation.
That leads to my second point. You can only compete by emulating winners, not losers. I travel extensively and I've noticed a pattern in this business. Show me a progressive, successful tire dealer or service shop operator and I'll show you someone who's actively involved with a local vocational school.
These successful businessmen all share the same philosophy: We are the prospective consumers of the products (the students) these schools produce. If we don't define the kind of product we need, who will define it for us? If we don't tell school administrators what we expect in a prospective new hire, who on earth will tell them?
Third, helping to improve local schools makes a world of sense because the market area immediately surrounding your dealership or service shop is usually the best place to recruit new talent. Therefore, willing activists should concentrate on the vocational school or schools closest to them. When we discuss improving schools, some bosses cite the old adage that charity begins at home-home being the ``home'' markets near their businesses.
Fourth, working with a vocational or trade school usually requires much less time and effort than most bosses realize. Typically, all you have to do is telephone the school and tell the principal or director that you'd like to join the automotive program's advisory committee. Some schools may call this group a trade council or similar name.
Politely clarify that you are a concerned tax payer/business owner who's interested in the school and its curricula. You believe you have valuable input that will help improve the automotive program and its value to our industry. The principal or director will steer you to the appropriate person-another administrator or possibly an automotive instructor. Then restate your intentions to this person.
Everywhere I travel, automotive instructors and administrators tell me they literally beg for more industry guidance and participation at their schools. As a rule, they'll welcome your participation with open arms. After all, an improved automotive program ultimately translates into better job security for them, doesn't it?
Believe me, they're painfully aware of the number of automotive programs that are being dropped or consolidated!
I get tired of hearing owners and managers whine that their new hires spent too much school time grinding valves and boring blocks and not enough time learning to diagnose electrical problems and emission failures. Once you join an advisory committee, you can discuss the kinds of skills you need at your business-not to mention the type of equipment that's needed to fix vehicles quickly and profitably today.
Involving yourself with this council or committee puts you right in the thick of the issues. You can argue your case for both revised curricula as well as updated equipment out in its bays. A law of physics states that objects don't move unless a force is exerted upon them. OK, school is the object and you're that force.
Depending upon the school, advisory committees meet anywhere from quarterly to monthly. Does that sound like an extraordinary amount of time compared to any of your other activities?
Finally, the most self-serving thing you can do about the obvious manpower shortage in our industry is to help improve the very schools that feed new workers for your business. That's as bottom-line as it gets.
Furthermore, who do you think instructors will approach when they're trying to ``place'' a promising young apprentice or a mature prospect from the adult education program?
They'll think of you. And that's just what you want.