"Our industry does not nurture its young. It eats its young."
That quip, from Dan Gilley of RLO Training, aptly expresses what many in the automotive aftermarket may or may not want to admit.
Repair shops are desperate for new automotive technicians to come out of vocational education schools to fill job vacancies as experienced techs retire or leave for a better position.
Yet the few newly minted auto techs who join a shop are usually sentenced to the so-called "lube rack" for an extended period of time, draining their hopes and ambitions of ever working on repairing cars.
Discouraged by the lack of challenging work, low flat-rate pay and the expense of buying their own tools, young people tend to look at other industries for a career path. And then the shops complain about the lack of qualified job applicants.
There are many things tire dealerships and auto repair shops can do to address this issue and it starts at home.
As several industry veterans have suggested:
- Get involved in your local high school or community college auto tech program;
- Offer a mentoring program or internship at your shop — and provide real hands-on experience;
- Offer better compensation and benefits than your competition;
- Make your shop an attractive place to work.
To retain quality technicians, shop owners not only need to provide competitive benefits, but also give employees a voice for improving operations and frequently express appreciation for a job well done. Create a positive workplace so employees won't need to look elsewhere.
Several industry experts are encouraging shops to switch their compensation to hourly or salary from flat-rate so techs can earn a more stable and livable wage. Belle Tire Distributors, for example, pays its techs a commission commensurate with their level of experience and certifications.
Owners then can raise their rates on repair/maintenance work to reflect the skill level needed to complete the job — not the time required.
Mr. Gilley noted that the average labor rate in the 1990s was about $65 per hour. If that rate grew with inflation every year, today's average labor rate should be about $210 per hour — enough to compensate an experienced technician properly.
And to attract those experienced technicians, several industry experts encouraged shop owners to be in a recruiting mode constantly, even without job vacancies.
By creating a reputation for your shop as the best place in town to work, both physically and culturally, you likely won't have to struggle to find job applicants when a vacancy does occur.