If you’ve read any of the major auto retail trade magazines in the last year, you’ll have heard the warnings about the expected service tech shortage. Major players in the industry have been vocal about the lack of qualified mechanics to replace those who are leaving the trade or retiring.
According to the National Automobile Dealers Association, the “retail auto industry needs roughly 76,000 new technicians every year to keep pace with jobs being created, plus retirements and replacements for technicians who leave the industry for other reasons.” As of this writing, only 37,000 technicians graduate every year, leaving a projected shortfall of 39,000 trained techs.
The repercussions for you, the dealer, are significant. Automobiles are more high-tech than ever, which means technicians need the most current and extensive training they can get. And with more cars on the road today than at any time in history, the total demand for service grows ever higher. If you don’t have trained technicians who can service the cars you sell, you risk having longer turn-arounds, higher costs and lower margins, and – worst of all – angry customers.
What can you, as an owner or manager, do to head off the problem? As it happens, you can do quite a lot.
- Sponsor a program at a local school. Not every high school junior or senior wants to go to a four-year college or sit at a desk for the next 45 years. In fact, many relish the prospect of working with their hands. Unfortunately for them, fewer and fewer high schools offer vocational training. Help change that by sponsoring a tech program at an area high school or technical school. Provide tools and old fleet cars for students to use. Offer scholarships to promising students. Be visible, too. The student who sees you in his classroom today might jump at the opportunity to work for you tomorrow.
- Talk up the technology. Today’s cars aren’t much like the cars you and I learned to drive. With remote start, Bluetooth technology, electronic stability control, automatic emergency braking, telematics, and countless other features, new vehicles are more like two-ton traveling computers than the cars built just ten years ago. And there’s not much millennials like more than technology. Visit area high schools and talk up the opportunities to learn new and exciting technology. Show them all the high-tech intricacies of today’s vehicles, and you’ll find more than a few interested in pursuing a career path they hadn’t previously considered.
- Talk up the benefits. One major advantage of a four-year degree – at least in the eyes of today’s high schoolers – is the prospect of a large paycheck. But college students are mistakenly optimistic about their starting salaries. Likewise, high school and college-age students are unaware of the earning potential of service technicians. According to NADA, the average dealership service technician earns over $60,000, significantly more than a new college grad. And since 69% of college graduates have an average debt of $30,000, service technicians start their careers with a distinct advantage.
- Treat them right. Fairly or unfairly, service technician work has a bad reputation. People envision terrible hours, unpleasant work conditions, and low pay. You, on the other hand, can be the notable exception. Position yourself as the area dealer everyone wants to work for. Give service techs a reasonable work-life balance by rotating weekend and evening shifts among the crew members. Make all work – even warranty work – the same hourly rate. Or forgo hourly rates altogether and consider a putting your service techs on salary. Give your techs a chance to get advanced training. And don’t forget to reward them accordingly. A slight salary bump or title change will go a long way toward creating loyalty.
Customer satisfaction depends on quality service. Quality service depends on great technicians. You absolutely can avoid the pitfalls associated with the service tech shortage. Get started today.
JKR Automotive Advertising: The car dealer ad agency.