By Carm Capriotto, Remarkable Results Radio Host
Ready to hit the bricks at AAPEX 2018? There are vendors to see, new innovative products to learn about, seminars to attend and did I mention networking. Again this year, AAPEX has pulled together a comprehensive Service Professionals training and networking program just for the service professional.
This year, AAPEX 2018 has another intelligent offering of seminars that cover a wide range of subjects. If you’ve gone to AAPEX every year, you know the power of the total experience. If it has been a while or never for you, then make this year the year you go and become engaged with the largest automotive aftermarket show on the planet.
For the second year, I’m honored to moderate a Town Hall Panel as part of the Service Professional series. Our topic is “Automotive Career Pathways: The Road to Great Technicians.” We also have allowed time at the end for a great interactive Q & A session from our audience. Your input will put a bow on the session (see details below).
If you own a shop, turn a wrench for a living or supply the parts, you’ve been involved in the discussion on the “technician shortage.” The issue isn’t easily fixed, yet there are many who are working tirelessly on this wide-ranging challenge we face. This is a global skilled trades issue. We are not alone looking for skilled tradespeople. Construction, plumbing, electrical, welding and other skilled trade jobs are also hurting, however, the automotive is rapidly becoming more technical than other skilled trades and that should be a draw.
No doubt, you would say, that the need to fill our technician ranks may be more important than keeping up with the training needed to fix tomorrow’s vehicles. The big question: where will the technicians come from to perform those repairs? Do you agree, technology is moving at the speed of life? Does your smartphone do an update and give you a new user experience every few months? Can we keep up? Tech jobs are the envy of many college students. Are we prepared to market our industry as a rapidly changing high tech career? We are not keeping up, yet the work of the Tech Force Foundation will start to make a difference.
Every aftermarket association is helping to support the need for the next generation of great technicians, yet we lose career technicians to fleets, government, small engine, marine and forklift repair. Many reasons we lose quality legacy techs are pay, benefits, tool investment, training, uniform allowance, continual paid training and five days a week, among others.
A solution to keeping and recruiting great technicians has to do with the service professional’s need to operate a more profitable operation. That allows the pay and benefits package to improve for our current staff and for new recruits who must see a solid training and income path.
Let’s take that a step further. Our new technician college graduates are faced with an investment in tools, paying off tuition loans and the negative image we have that does not make a career in the automotive aftermarket attractive to parents, spouses, and families. Yes, the college debt is nowhere near a four-year degree, so creative incentives to onboard new recruits will go a long way in showing a solid career path; plans like college debt retirement, paid continuous training, a tool investment program and benefits that grow with tenure. The shop needs greater operating profits to build a solid engaged and long-term team; however, do not discount a strong business culture and pristine working conditions as strong factors in your recruitment and retention strategy.
We need to be thankful for the many organizations who are working tirelessly on plans to change the message to parents and students. The Tech Force Foundation is working with institutions and industry to refine the message for parents, principals and superintendents. They need to hear about the “high tech” jobs available in the automotive field. At every dinner table in America, middle schoolers are molded, by their parents, to get their bachelor’s degree and become a “professional;” insert – Lawyer, Doctor, Accountant, Programmer, etc.
The skilled trades never come up at the dinner table unless the child is passionate about working with their hands. Parents do not have the vision that their child would become a skilled professional. They need to know and understand that the automotive industry is vibrant and will have disciplined career path opportunities that will pay well and offer upward mobility. We are hi-tech.
It does start by telling the parent that there is a viable career opportunity in the high-tech automotive field, but our image, pay and benefits need to rise. But that is only part of the problem.
Thanks go to ASE and the ASE Education Foundation for their work building a strong education and mentoring programs. And thanks to the many apprentice programs we have (some government funded) to help develop experienced technicians. These all need to find synergy in developing skill sets and competency levels.
We are in an important evolution and we must be building automotive careers, not just letting them happen. Today’s high-tech automotive world is not like our father’s Oldsmobile. Training and the absorption of knowledge is different today than how many of our seasoned technicians traveled to their level of experience and expertise. Getting to be at the top of your career will take more training than the typical 40 hours per year. It is a lifelong commitment to training integrated into a designed and disciplined career path.
The AAPEX 2018 Service Professional Session will tackle this issue. I welcome your seat in the audience on Thursday, November 1st at 2 p.m., in the Marco Polo Room 701 in The Venetian. Our panelists Donny Seyfer, Chris Chesney, and Kyle Holt are at the cutting edge of career building, but it will not happen without you. Once the many organizations, systems and processes are pulled together, we will need you pulling and pushing this into the industry like no other challenge we’ve faced.
Think of every automotive improvement and new technology challenge we’ve faced over the last 40 years. For every innovation, many called for the demise of the aftermarket. Our problem is not tech, we can learn that. Our problem is talent, people, the hands and minds that will repair every new challenge they discover. It will be our job to nurture our professional talent and guide their career to take them wherever they want to go.