While it can be frustrating to work with young technicians, dealers need to treat them like sons and daughters, not servants, Mr. Gilley said.
"We need to change our attitude," he said. "If you have a problem finding people or keeping people, it's not the industry, it's you."
Mr. Gilley said dealers should consider each graduate a four-year project, which includes paying for their training. Dealers used to budget about 40 hours a year for training, but that number is probably closer to 80 now, Mr. Gilley said.
"There are technicians who are so dedicated, they are paying for their own training, which is embarrassing," Mr. Gilley said. "In what other trade do you have to get ongoing training and pay for it yourself?
"If you're worried about where the money is going to come from, it's called charging your customers. Because they're the ones who are going to get the benefits from them, so they should pay for it."
Dealerships don't just lose technicians to other dealerships. They lose them to other industries.
"In too many instances, starting-entrant technicians are making about the same as if they were working at Chick-fil-A," Ms. Maher said.
"You had to go to school, you had to get some kind of training, you have to get your own tools and you have to prove yourself. A lot of them look at it as, 'I can go to Chick-fil-A and they'll pay for my college education and I don't have to work on Sunday.'"
The starting wage for an auto technician is between $13 and $16 an hour. By contrast, Mr. Gilley said, the Seattle Times recently had a full-page ad for an electricians' union that read, "Do you want to make $47.50 an hour? We can show you how in three years."
"I know techs that make $47.50 an hour, but they don't make it in three years," Mr. Gilley said. "They're going after the same kids we want. The same kids who don't want to go to a four-year school and want to work with their hands."
So, Mr. Gilley said, it's important to pay more — and those costs should be covered by customers.
"I ask them, 'Do you want to be Nordstrom or do you want to be Walmart?'" he said. "Because Walmart is all about price, price, price and Nordstrom is all about service, service, service.
"If we are going to pay people correctly, we need to charge for our service."
Does your shop look like a dungeon? Is there stuffing coming out of the customer service couch? Do you need a tetanus shot before using the bathroom?
These things matter — and not just to customers.
"One hedge fund group was buying collision shops and the first thing they did was spend $20,000 on the employee lounge and the employee area," Mr. Gilley said. "The first thing they did was tell people they were important."
Shop owners may not have $20,000 to spend on upgrades, but they could probably upgrade the lighting or swing $20 for a new employee coffee pot.
"You spend 40 hours a week or more there," Mr. Gilley said. "You need to ask yourself, 'What can I do to make it comfortable for the most important people you have?'"