For the past number of years, a number of studies and reports have shown a growing shortage of skilled collision and mechanical technicians within the automotive industry. This is becoming a huge problem for collision repair shop owners. Finding and hiring qualified technicians will continue to be the number one challenge for repair shops over the next decade. Shop managers need to make recruiting/training/ and supporting technician education a priority. What should repair shops be doing to improve the situation at the local level?
Repair shops need to make a serious commitment to training. Repair shops should invest time and energy working with local high schools, technical colleges, and trade schools. Automotive repair is a highly technical industry in which learning about new technologies is a never ending journey. With that in mind, repair shops need technicians with excellent communication skills, computer skills, written skills, as well as mechanical and electronic repair skills.
Mentoring is a valuable way to provide job enrichment and to close various skill gaps which exist amongst shop employees. Pairing highly skilled techs with less experienced or apprentice level technicians is a great way to develop and deliver news skill sets. This approach goes a long way to closing skill-related gaps, building comradery, generating teamwork and fostering a more productive work environment.
Repair shops need to get involved with local automotive technology programs. The students who are enrolled in these programs are future employees of tomorrow. If repair shops are genuinely interested in wanting to hire the best qualified job candidates – the best future technicians - they need to begin partnering with local schools.
Quality is a priority
The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) has a certification program for schools through the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF). It can be very difficult for schools to become ASE certified. Programs which have earned the ASE certification are quite good.
Instructors in the automotive technology programs must be ASE certified. The curriculum they teach must be up-to-date and the students must have access to the appropriate tools and equipment. If the school’s program is ASE certified, repair shops are assured the students have been subjected to a large part of the automotive repair industry and are ready for the next level in collision repair.
The Collision Repair Education Foundation (CREF), a branch of I – CAR: is a national nonprofit and tax-exempt student organization with a vision of provide the collision industry with a sufficient number of qualified, properly trained, and immediately productive entry level employees to meet current and future industry needs.
The next level
Repair shops can improve their access to quality, skilled repair technicians by partnering with local high schools, local technical colleges, and local trade schools. Committing to strong civic-minded partnerships provides a great way of creating a pipeline of highly qualified future employees. Hosting “open house” nights at the repair facility and inviting teachers, school administrators, and parents of the students is a great strategy of engagement. The goal here is to teach everyone about the quality career paths available in the automotive repair space.
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