We’re all aware of the labor shortages that are affecting all businesses. In the retail and service industries, this is especially true. Restaurants confront difficulties with wait staff, cooks, and management, although one can cook at home if necessary. Retail establishments face a staffing shortage, but you can just shop online and have it delivered to your home. Having car problems, on the other hand, is a different scenario. Sure, you can change your own battery, wiper blades, and filters. But if your vehicle isn’t operating properly, is leaking, overheated, or has other serious issues, you have no choice but to trust the professional automotive technicians.
For a minute, let us sit crooked and converse straight.
When you take your automobile to a repair shop, you’ll probably find yourself with a long wait for the repair. A typical wait time for a minor service like an oil change could be all day or a few days. An appointment for serious repairs could be 5-8 weeks away. It’s a difficult situation that no one appears to be able to solve.
In 2012, the NADA and the TechForce Foundation calculated that between 2020 and 2026, about 16,500 dealerships would require at least 76,000 technicians to keep up with demand. Between now and 2024, the sector will be short by around 642,000 technicians (automotive, diesel, and collision). Both reputable organizations had obviously recognized the same challenges and worries. Both have identified fundamental issues that are quite similar. The baby-boomer technician workforce is retiring in greater numbers each year. Some estimates are as high as nearly 11% annually. Automotive technicians at car dealerships have a relatively high turnover rate of about 31% each year, according to NADA surveys. A large percentage of this group being in younger generations.
What does all of this mean for the auto repair industry?
Not so long ago, employees that were harassed, overworked, and underpaid were once forced to say “Take This Job and Shove It.” Everyone in the automotive sector is witnessing a dearth of qualified personnel who don’t want to work. They also don’t take pleasure in or care about the industry in which they happen to work. Our work markets labor sector is mostly the source of distractions. A construction business will pay someone with no experience $25.00 to $30.00 an hour to come in and do labor work. Paid health insurance, paid vacation, and paid sick leave are all available to employees.
Let’s meet Frank. He started working in auto repair 5 years ago and has worked his way up to investing $15,000 in tools. His current vehicle repair expertise pays him $18.00 to $20.00 an hour, which is straightforward and ordinary. Frank puts in another five years and has invested more in his profession and craft. The industry will consider paying him the $30.00 to $35.00 per hour that his talent and experience warrant. At his present hourly rate of $18.00 to $20.00, an automatic raise with no experience looks very attractive and promising.
How are owners of independent auto repair shops supposed to compete?
Now, the demand for labor outnumbers the supply of experienced workers. Automotive “Trade Schools” like UTI or AAI in Arizona are pumping out students with 50K or more in debt. They graduated after 8 to 9 months of online training and 7 to 12 weeks of hands-on training. These graduates are now jumping on the cash grab train by asking for a sign-up bonus with no experience! Their online training has enabled them to simply Google or YouTube their diagnosis or understand anything they haven’t been taught properly.
On Indeed, Zip Recruiter, or Craigslist, these are the current technicians searching for jobs. The reality is that instead of focusing on who we need to hire, every shop owner should focus on who they already have who will stay. Don’t be misled, shopkeepers; they have the upper hand right now, and they’re all thinking about their next move every day, unconcerned about it. Because they have the benefit of time!
A note to the shopkeepers.
If you want to get a body in the door, simply give a 2-3 experienced lube technician a $1,000.00 sign-up bonus or a 3-5 year experienced bumper-to-bumper technician $1,500 to $2,000.00 bonus. If you do, it’ll be a bad move because the next sign-up bonus will entice them to move on. There is no assurance that they will stay, and they will not sign a contract committing to a specific amount of time. You are, in fact, jumping without a parachute.
If they stay and are ready to put in the effort, they have a great wild card up their sleeve called “Slow Up, Slow Down.” The following is a simple explanation: It occurs when employees “deliberately work slowly,” usually to change something about their working surroundings so that they can regulate their anxiety. This is, of course, all about the unjustified stress that today’s technician faces. Their valuable quality of life is depleted by watching Tik-Tok and sipping a double latte!
Hiring these sign-up bonus employees is akin to putting out a sign for a $9.99 oil change; sure, you’ll get a lot of cars in the door, but I guarantee they won’t be loyal customers; instead, they’ll become your worst customers, constantly demanding more until another shop goes to $8.99 for the oil change.
We all know the car repair industry isn’t going away anytime soon
Mechanics of patience have shifted tremendously for us shop owners. Shop owners have basically three options. 1-Take a step back. 2-Submit. 3-Keep going and don’t surrender. Meanwhile, we all have lives to live, and the clock continues to tick. We have obligations and empathy for our enterprises, as well as commitments and families. So, how do we deal with the ongoing shortage of auto mechanics? It all starts with us working together as a team to solve this challenge, which we can do!
The fact that we have strong roots in this industry is incredible. Being in the automotive industry for over 36 years, I’ve seen young individuals come to work at a dealership while still in high school or shortly after, enroll in factory-sponsored apprentice programs, and graduate as a full-line Certified Technician within two years. They were compensated for working at the dealership throughout this time. They also received assistance with equipment purchases and career pathing, as well as continued education and certifications, to help them better comprehend the future potential in our fantastic industry.
The ability to grow is huge!
Many of these experts have gone on to work as Shop Foreman, Service Manager, Fixed Operations Director, and even General Manager in various fixed operations and executive positions. All of this appears to have vanished. There are several OEM technician training programs targeted at increasing and certifying technicians, as well as offering aid with tool purchases and training expenditures. I am optimistic and believe there is yet hope. To tempt future technicians to join them, some major repair chains are working to improve or build substantial training and career pathing programs, as well as tool purchase assistance.
As important as it is to develop emerging talent, many people in the industry may have intended to be technicians but decided to pursue a different professional path years ago. They are now unhappy and in the middle of their careers and would welcome the chance to change careers. Another problem we face at the middle and high school levels is that guidance counselors and parents are often unaware of the opportunities available in the business.
What can you do to help alter this?
If manufacturers continue to produce automobiles, it makes sense to let them to lead and aid in the recruitment of experienced technicians. Putting in place dealerships to manage, construct, and oversee successful mentorship programs is critical. Qualified students may be able to “earn while they learn” while still obtaining the support and assistance they require through these programs. Prior to technical training, an apprenticeship is essential since it shows the student that the craft demands not only a strong interest, but also a strong work ethic, as well as a drive to solve difficulties. It’s a terrible way to wind up in a dead-end job if you put money first.
Of course, enhancing customer trust and happiness is a critical component of this endeavor. This begins with the quality and attention of the working technician, who will be able to effectively execute more repairs while reducing customer wait times. More autos demand more technicians, which is aggravated by the fact that vehicles are growing more complex and defects are becoming more common.
Unfortunately, the shortage of mechanics is unlikely to be resolved any time soon. The problem may be slightly reduced as electric vehicles become more popular because they require less maintenance, but until then, make sure to treat your current technicians well, empower them to trust the process and do everything you can educate them why they should stay.
A cooperative hiring process is vital because it allows you to teach your staff so well that they can leave while also treating them well enough that they don’t want to.