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Strategies to add more young people to your work force

Wednesday, May 1, 2019 - 07:00
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What’s wrong with kids these days?

Every generation in this culture asks the same question as it struggles to understand why the world it built isn’t good enough for the people it created. The answer is pretty simple.

There’s nothing wrong with them.

Young people have their own interests and priorities. They want to cut their own path in life. Someday they’ll have their own kids and end up asking the same question.

That response, however, isn’t a sufficient answer for an automotive service industry desperately needing to replace greying shop staffs with a new generation that just doesn’t seem interested in this work. The jobs are there. Opportunities to grow and earn significant money are readily available, yet millennials have their attention elsewhere.

(Photo courtesy of Chantilly Auto Body) Chantilly Auto Body continually updates its apprenticeship program which pairs young people with seasoned technicians.

Here’s where you come in. There’s plenty your shop can do to bridge the gap to this generation and help build a new workforce that keeps both your business and the industry at large thriving.

Doing so involves utilizing the following five steps.

Step 1. Get involved with schools
Collision repair isn’t the only industry being largely ignored by young people. Interest in trade work in general has been dropping for several decades. Brandon Eckenrode, Director of Development for the Collision Repair Education Foundation (CREF), says this decline can be attributed largely to the wide-spread belief that a four-year college education is the only path to success. He says overcoming that belief is perhaps the biggest challenge repairers face in convincing young people to join their industry.

So pervasive is this perception that it negates interest in repair career s on multiple fronts. Not only do young people and their parents both become convinced that a repair career is no avenue to success, school administrators frequently cut funding and investment in repair programs since they too see little future in this work. “A lot of these programs look like they did 20 years ago,” says Eckenrode. “That’s not going to draw students in. It’s going to do the opposite.”

This isn’t a localized issued. Repair programs nationwide are being eroded. That doesn’t mean a concerted, nationwide initiative is needed to address it. “This is a national problem with a local solution,” says Eckenrode.

Much of that solution rests with repairers who can take effective, proven steps such as getting involved with school committees and advisory boards (which you can do on your own or through a shop association). “Getting involved shows administrators that there is a market for these programs,” he says. This input can be significant since automotive programs tend to be expensive, which makes them obvious targets for budget cuts.

Eckenrode adds that taking a role in education also gives repairers a chance to work directly with instructors to discuss entry level skill development and other issues to help students make themselves more employable. Addressing these issues now benefits students and shops since it helps both steer clear of potential early workplace problems and instead concentrate on developing technical and other capabilities that keep operations and careers online.

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