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How to grow your own technicians

Wednesday, April 25, 2018 - 07:00
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The technician shortage is here and will be for some time. In this article, we are not going to look at the cause of this shortage. Instead, we are going to explore one opportunity to help solve the shortage for your shop, helping you get the technicians you need.  

If you want to keep your bays full of good employees, you need to grow your own! What that means is to get involved with local technical schools — either high school and/or post-secondary levels. Become part of a student program so that you not only have input into how it is structured, but you can also discover any talent that comes through and guide those individuals to a successful career at your shop. 

I recently spoke with George Stahl, the automotive instructor at Eastern Center for Arts and Technology located in Willow Grove, Penn., to get some insight into the Automotive Technology program at the school. Stahl has been a part of the automotive program at Eastern for 9 years. Currently, he has 40 total students, with a waiting list of 22 students.

With a waiting list of students, I asked Stahl if he thought that it was the result of local schools pushing the program. 

George Stahl, the automotive instructor at Eastern Center for Arts and Technology located in Willow Grove, Penn., stands in his classroom.

“I think it is more student-driven. The kids are passing the word that, if you like cars, you should apply to the class,” Stahl stated. “I had 20 returning seniors, which is the highest amount in years,” He added. 

Checking with other local automotive programs, I found that they also have full rosters of students. It seems that Stahl isn’t alone.  

I asked Stahl about what certifications the students will graduate with. “They will be prepared to take their ASE 1 through 8 certification tests and be prepped to take the [PA] state inspection and emissions licenses. However, most of the students are not 18 years old yet, so they can’t take the certifications," he said. "We do run them through the state inspection manual, give them quizzes, and provide them with some training and questions for the emissions program also; so, we can test their knowledge of the subjects.” 

Stahl has found that the current generation of students has difficulty focusing and needs more hands-on time than book time, so he has adjusted his approach to take advantage of that, rather than fight it. Currently, he assigns tablets to his students for them to complete tasks. Having success with this method, Stahl has requested additional tablets for the school.  

Stahl added that when students graduate from the program, they have basic knowledge of safety, tools and system functions. Proving the success of the program, Stahl has a 75 percent placement rate for students going to a post-secondary automotive education.  

When asked if any local shops are reaching out to the program, Stahl said “yes” and that the list was mostly dealerships. I had to ask if there were any independents. He again replied yes, naming only a few when compared to the dealerships. 

I questioned Stahl if he could ask for anything from the shops around him, independent and dealership, what it would be. 

“More programs for 17-year-old students. Getting them in the shops to see what the business is like. Let them shadow techs to get experience,” he said. 

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