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Working with local technical schools

Wednesday, August 3, 2016 - 06:00
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Cars today are very complicated with systems and sub-systems that require in depth training, special equipment and skills way beyond anything we saw in the 1980s or 90s. The good news is that cars are much more reliable than they ever used to be. The bad news is that when they break you have to have specialized knowledge, skill and experience to fix them. The current shortage of qualified technicians is a critical issue facing repair shops in the U.S. and a significant risk to the automotive repair industry, particularly away from the dealership world.

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One of the most consistent and pervasive challenges facing repair shop owners and service managers is keeping their shops fully staffed with technicians who are up to date on their training and capable of working on late model vehicles. Finding a technician at all can be a challenge in many parts of the country, but finding capable, productive, quality technicians in many cases is a near impossibility. The reasons for this are many and varied, but big factors in all of this are our lack of a game plan in training and recruiting, as well as negative perceptions of the industry. If we do not put automotive repair out there as a viable career option early, making training opportunities highly visible, attractive and available to young people graduating from high school today, we might find ourselves in an ever tightening staffing crunch that will begin to impact our business and our ability to compete or even survive. Come to think of it, this kind of sounds like where we are today.

I think all of us dream about that perfect tech, with that perfect combination of knowledge, skill and experience walking in off the street and rescuing our service operation. While we are waiting for that unlikely event to occur, I am going to suggest something a bit more constructive and have you contact an appropriate high school, technical school or community college in your area and see what they might have to offer. Get on their industry advisory board, donate some of your time or buy them a piece of equipment and take the time to meet some of the students. All of this is an investment in your future. Even though we still can hope and pray that perfect tech walks in and saves us somewhere along the way, beginning to partner with a local school gives us the opportunity to engage and interact with both students and teachers and gives us the very real opportunity to use that real world experience we have been gaining all these years and advise on curriculum and training priorities. Most important of all, we get to engage and interact with the technicians of tomorrow and get first crack at the training, knowledge and experience they represent. Identify promising students and set up internships for them — get to know them while they get to know you. Give them a career path while investing in your tomorrow. Begin to solve your staffing problem instead of waiting for that solution to walk in your door because that wait is likely to be a long one.

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