It started with the launch of www.AutoCareCareers.org in early 2015, which added a job board later that year. The program began conducting college outreach last fall.
The website now includes postings for internships and information and guides for how companies can recruit new employees, especially the younger, social-media-savvy generation.
College career fairs
Last fall, the ACA visited four college career fairs to educate professors and students about the variety of job opportunities available in the automotive aftermarket.
This fall, ACA will be visiting six campuses: Texas A&M, College Station, Texas; Grove City College, Grove City, Pa.; University of Northwestern Ohio, Lima, Ohio; Ferris State University, Big Rapids, Mich.; University of North Florida, Jacksonville, Fla.; and Wheaton College, Wheaton, Ill.
It is part of the association's strategy to connect the industry and individual companies with the next-generation work force. It invites local employers to join the career fairs and meet potential employees.
In some cases, local companies connected the ACA with a college or trade school.
"The Auto Care Careers on Campus program works to expand the awareness of career opportunities in the automotive aftermarket at the post-secondary school level," Ms. Hammer said.
"We have created relationships with several new schools that are eager to hear about employment opportunities in the industry, so that employers can establish a new pipeline of talent at schools that have been vetted by the Auto Care Association. Bottom line, this is an easy way to connect with new schools and recruit high-quality young people."
Ideally, participating employers will have internships or entry-level positions available to offer students interested in the auto care industry, she said.
Ms. McQuiston added that the ACA relies on its members, who may be alumni or have established relationships, to introduce the association to college staff.
"The idea, really, is for the Auto Care Association to create these relationships with colleges, universities and technical schools, and make the introduction to the different companies in the local areas and then let those companies build on that relationship and go back year after year," she said.
Last year at Grove City College, the ACA was invited to come the day before a campus job fair to have a luncheon with professors from different departments and to speak before several classes about the industry.
Students then were encouraged to visit the ACA table at the job fair. "And we had the busiest table at the job fair," she recalled.
She said students generally are curious, and once they hear about the various career opportunities at different levels of the industry, they are definitely interested. The general response is, "Oh, I never thought of it that way," she said.
Ms. McQuiston said the industry can use students with a variety of degrees, including business, marketing, advertising, finance/accounting, engineering, technology, graphic design, etc.
"You can have a high school degree with some technical training. You can have a four-year degree, and I know of people with PhDs. The depth and the breadth of education in this industry is so varied," she said.
"There's a real education gap as far as our industry and what we do, because so much of it goes unseen. I think the world of the aftermarket is behind the scenes. It's the best-kept secret — how a part goes from a manufacturer, to a distributor, to a jobber, to a shop, to get put on a consumer's vehicle.
"But nobody sees that back end stuff. It's definitely an opportunity to teach job seekers and career influencers — parents, professors, career counselors — all the opportunities that are there," she said.
"It's a great opportunity as an industry to market our opportunities and talk about what an impact our industry actually makes in the world. We live in the United States, which is a completely car-driven society. The people here rely on their cars for transportation — to get to school, to get to work, to get to the hospital, to go see grandma — that without us, that world doesn't exist," Ms. McQuiston said.
"...I think if we tell our story in that way and talk about how we help people, we keep cars on the road, and we keep America moving, that is an opportunity for us to gain some of the best employees that are out there."
Ms. McQuiston admitted it can be challenging for companies to make the investment to send an employee to a day-long career fair.
"I would encourage any company to try attending a job fair. At a career fair, you have a lot of opportunities to meet a lot of really eager students, and they want to learn about your business just as much as you want to learn about what they can do," Ms. McQuiston said.
"I think it's a great way to meet a number of potential candidates, and then you can follow up with them after that and bring them in and have a formal interview. It really helps weed out some of the candidates."
More and more colleges are requiring internships as part of a student's degree completion.
"So we are seeing more of a demand for that. When we go to career fairs, one of the things a career counselor asks is if we offer internships and how many entry-level jobs do we have available," Ms. McQuiston said.
"Mentoring and training can be really time-consuming and ultimately slow down productivity, but that investment you're making to teach the new technician and sharing knowledge, ultimately, is creating a succession plan for the shop and creating that new pipeline of talent to keep your business sustainable," she said.
She noted it is important for business owners to reward employees who take on the responsibilities of mentoring and training an intern.
There also is the challenge of creating an internship job description outlining expectations for both the student and the employees that dissuade many businesses from pursuing an internship program, she said. So one of the ACA program's goals is eventually to develop a template for internship job descriptions that businesses could adapt for their operations, she said.
Internships are considered an ideal way to access qualified potential employees, according to the ACA, which offers scholarships for college and high school students who want a career in the auto care industry, including offering assistance for students pursuing internships far from home.
The Auto Care Careers job board involves a network of associations, including the Specialty Equipment Market Association, Custom Automotive Network, Automotive Service Association, Automotive Aftermarket Association Southeast, HDA-Truck Pride, National Independent Automobile Dealers Association, Society of Collision Repair Specialists and TechForce Foundation.
"So when you post on AutoCareCareers.org for your job, you're actually posting to like seven different sites because they are all networked on the back end," Ms. McQuiston said.
Currently the job board has 500 job postings, and the ACA is hoping to expand that. The number fluctuates throughout the year.
A 30-day job posting for a technician/mechanic costs a company $75; other individual job postings cost $105 for members/$158 for non-members. Multiple job postings packages also are offered.
The internship posting site is an area that Ms. McQuiston hopes to grow over time. Postings usually show up during the fall and spring semesters. Internships are free to post online, "so we strongly encourage all of our companies to post their opportunities."
The ACA also developed a recruitment guide for employers that provides information and statistics to help attract the new generation of workers, noting that "it can be challenging to reach potential new applicants, especially those from the tech-savvy Millennial generation."
Millennials, born between 1980 and 2000, will make up about 64 percent of the work force by 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Meanwhile, Baby Boomers, which includes those born before 1965, are beginning to retire.
The ACA notes that young job seekers search for jobs differently than their elders, with nearly three-fourths of 18- to 34-year-olds finding their last job through a social media network, according to an Aberdeen Group study.
Nearly half of Millennials use their mobile phones to search for a job, but according to the ACA, a majority of career website pages are not optimized for mobile-friendly use.
"Given that Millennials are the largest growing demographic in the country, social recruiting is now the rule, not the exception," the recruitment guide said, noting that social recruiting is the practice of using social media sites to recruit and screen job candidates.
Noting that a company's website and social media are important to Millennials searching for employment, the ACA recommended that companies of all sizes need to invest time and resources to improving their digital presence.
Job seekers use a number of online platforms to research a company before they decide to apply for a job opening, the ACA said.
At a minimum, a company needs to have a "careers" section on its website that provides information on available jobs, workplace culture, opportunities for growth and an overview of why the company is a great place to work.
The ACA advises companies to be active on LinkedIn for recruitment and on social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, to display brand identity and culture for potential hires.
The ACA encourages companies to post weekly on social media to highlight the company's culture and work that employees are doing.