Losing techs impacts different auto repair businesses to different degrees, but the loss can be costly to the business as well as stressful for the entire crew.
Furthermore, finding a suitable replacement can be a challenging, tedious exercise. To cite just one example, local vocational schools may offer well-educated graduates who have only minimal shop experience.
Inexperienced hires usually require a certain amount of coaching. Over the years, many bosses have told me there is no opportune time to coach a novice tech appropriately.
This perceived time crunch can spur certain bosses to seek veteran techs only. Focusing on experienced hires is supposed to sustain the volume of work coming out of the business' service bays.
This scenario brings us back to the importance of contributing time to local vocational schools and sustaining solid relationships with their personnel. Automotive instructors often are active within an extensive but informal network of former graduates. These capable, experienced techs like to stay in touch with their teachers — sharing information and enjoying old-fashioned camaraderie.
Furthermore, it is not uncommon for top techs to seek new jobs as discretely as practically possible while they are employed. They ask their former automotive teachers to listen for potential new job opportunities.
Predictably, instructors tend to suggest automotive pros they already know well and respect a great deal. Because those pros invested time in vital school functions, they earned teachers' respect and trust.
Admittedly, the internet provides paths for recruiting that I could only imagine when I started, but to me, personal referrals from trusted colleagues are priceless recruiting leads.
Career Day details
Career Day, as its name suggests, involves industry professionals discussing their experiences in their occupations. This event offers a golden opportunity for auto repair pros to pitch the advantages of our industry to impressionable young students.
Make no mistake about it, an effective presentation from a successful local boss helps build the talent pool of capable future techs. It's one thing for instructors to talk about potential job opportunities and show students public — service films on the topic.
It is considerably more convincing, however, when students hear established local pros describe their actual career trajectories — the path, for example, from high-school auto shop to vocational school and then on to the bays of a neighborhood service facility.
Perhaps their years of hard work enabled them to purchase that same facility or build a new one. This path underscores that auto service constitutes a viable career as opposed to a dead-end job.
In other words, this boss' work history illustrates upward mobility in a challenging, valuable occupation — fixing vehicles.
This boss' successful repair facility represents an admirable endeavor because it created jobs and feeds families. It also funnels tax dollars into the local community.
Seasoned vocational instructors have emphasized several factors to me about the impact of students' interaction with prosperous pros during Career Day. First, vocational schools should schedule these events early in automotive students' curricula — perhaps during their introductory classes.
The concept is simple: It is better to persuade and impress students earlier rather than later in their schooling.
Second, a convincing presentation at Career Day may elevate some kids from being casual or halfhearted learners into serious students focused on careers. It may sound corny, but Career Day could challenge someone to excel at a skilled trade.
A bitter truth is that some vocational school students are biding time — going through the motions. They have no other aspirations such as a college degree, military service or anything else that entails work.
Their parents, who can afford the tuition, recognize this apathy and view vocational school as a suitable — albeit temporary — distraction for these kids.
Third, younger students may have less-than-stellar ideas of what constitutes professionalism, work ethic, personal pride, etc. The sooner they see firsthand examples of these traits from qualified sources, the better.
Fourth, some auto repair pros are more natural speakers and presenters than others are. It pays to caucus with vocational school instructors well in advance of Career Day: Discuss the preferred length of the speech, potential visual aids and handout materials, possible case histories of vocational school grads you employed, etc.
Effective preparation makes a presentation purr like a smooth V8; poor preparation yields a misfiring jalopy of a speech.
Job Fair events
Overall, Career Day promotes practical careers in some area of automotive service by encouraging students to stay in the industry.
A job fair, however, is a venue where owners and managers recruit potential new techs directly from the vocational school's automotive students. The event may be laid out in the school's shop area, cafeteria or gymnasium.
Do not procrastinate, avoiding recruitment until absolutely necessary. Instead, contact vocational schools within your market area about upcoming job fairs. Patiently canvass these events, noting the ways automotive service providers can present themselves and their businesses.
You may find booths as elaborate as those you have seen in trade shows. You may encounter setups as simple as a 10-foot folding table staffed by a shop owner and service manager.
As I have stressed in past columns, simple but sincere can be very convincing. For example, welcome every student you see consistently and enthusiastically. Ask their name; repeat their name because people usually love hearing their own name from an authority figure.
Inquire about areas of auto service that intrigue students because your business already may specialize in that work. Shared interests help you break the ice and bond with prospects.
At the very least, prepare a basic "bundle" for each visitor to your company booth or display. For example, include a business card, a personalized invitation to visit your shop, good photos of the interior and exterior, a list industry awards and certifications and a summary of the modern equipment on hand.
Some owners and managers actually show off some of their portable test gear at job fairs — an oscilloscope, scan tool or other advanced pieces.
Within your bundle, describe any hiring bonuses, pay incentive plans, medical plans and other noteworthy benefits your business offers. If you have a company grill where techs can cook their own lunch, include it.
If you have a basketball hoop bolted to the back of the building as well as a suitable mini-court, include it. If you have a rescue dog as a shop mascot, mention it.
Always emphasize ongoing education in which you have invested; cite the regular training programs your techs favor. Include an estimate of the number of hours an applicant must commit to update training annually.
Suppose you sense something admirable in a student. Schedule a tour of your facility for that person, perhaps during a lunch with your crew. Could be your present techs will be the biggest selling point of your business.
Regardless of how you schedule a visit, be sure you block out adequate time to give this prospect your undivided attention.
Pens, key fobs, hats and similar "merch" always are welcome niceties, but a meaningful packet promoting your business — and a relaxed but focused on-site interview — are persuasive things. Don't underestimate them at recruiting time.