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Creating change in the auto industry requires commitment, not just involvement

Tuesday, March 27, 2018 - 07:00
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You’ve most likely heard the story about the chicken and the pig. Both lived on a farm and were raised by a farmer who made sure they had everything they needed. One day the chicken thought it would be great to do something nice for the farmer. The chicken approached the pig with his idea. The pig asked “What do you suggest we do?” to which the chicken replied, “Well, the farmer really likes a good breakfast. Wouldn’t it be great if we made him breakfast since he has little time to do so?”  

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The pig replied, “What should we make for his breakfast?” The chicken thought for a moment and said “Well I know he likes eggs. I would be happy to provide a couple.” The pig then asked “What else would the farmer like for breakfast?” The chicken again gave it some thought and replied “He really likes bacon! It would be great if you provided some bacon.” To which the pig replied, “Well that’s just great. Your contribution requires your involvement while mine requires a total commitment on my part!”  

This story illustrates the current issues we face in the automotive service industry. There are some who are involved, yet few who are fully committed. There are many who aren’t even coming to the breakfast table, yet complain they are hungry. The issues we face as an industry are many; the technician shortage and the never-ending onslaught of new technologies are just two examples. As I visit with shop owners and technicians across the country, the conversation always includes at least one or both of these issues. Everyone is concerned because these issues threaten our livelihood and the way we do business. Everyone is concerned because they signify change in how we support our teams.  

Let’s look at a couple examples that need our attention. First, there is industry concern that vocational schools are not producing what you need in the way of skilled technicians. Many shop owners complain that the graduates they hire simply can’t perform the services offered without further investment or training, so they hire them and put them on the lube rack and hope they learn the skills they need there. Yet, they complain the young techs can’t do an inspection correctly, or that they don’t seem to have the desire to learn or the enthusiasm to grow. Or, they complain that the OE dealers are cherry picking the best talent and leaving the rest to the aftermarket.  

These are all concerns, but the solution is staring us right in the mirror. Vocational schools are limited in time and resources to grow new talent. In the last 20-plus years, the complexity of the automobile and the services you provide have increased tenfold, but schools are still dealing with the same or less resources as they attempt to provide you with talent. Couple this with the fact that vocational instructors are usually one or two-man teams that spend more time at their craft than most of you, and get paid less than half what you pay your top technicians. For those schools that have achieved ASE Education Foundation credentials, they must meet all the record keeping standards and must decide what topics and skills to focus on each semester. Quite frankly, they can’t do it successfully without your help.  

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