The Shortage of Technicians is Not a Problem
By Bob Cooper
As we all know, since the inception of our industry shop owners have complained about the ever-increasing shortage of qualified technicians. Yet what I find most interesting is that they seem to overlook one key factor: personal responsibility. I have always felt it is foolish for business owners to operate under the illusion that someone else will be responsible for the development of the people needed to work in their businesses. The vehicle manufacturers never made a promise to us that they would provide us with an ongoing supply of qualified technicians, nor did the dealerships, part suppliers or schools. The bottom line is this: If a shop owner does not have gifted technicians working at their shop, the only person they should blame is themselves. To put it another way, the shortage of technicians is a symptom, not a problem. It’s the symptom of a shop owner who has not taken the responsibility of building their own system for staffing. So rather than looking for others to solve the problem for you, what you need to do is start an apprenticeship program and develop your own superstar techs.
Over the years I have learned that if I am provided with people who have the right attitude, the aptitude to learn how to master their job, and the right ethics, they can be turned into absolute superstars even if they have no prior industry experience. Not only do those without industry experience come to us with no bad habits, but they have wide open minds and are willing to embrace our way of doing business. Interestingly, many shop owners prefer to not take this “grow-your-own” approach, and I have found they typically have three reasons why: they say it’s too hard, it takes too long to grow your own, and since most of them just lost a good tech, they say they need someone with skills. However, our clients have discovered that the right apprentices are an absolute joy to work with, and they develop their skills faster than you would ever imagine.
There are also those that say younger people have no interest in becoming technicians, and I disagree with that conclusion as well. I am confident that on any given day there are many young guys and gals in your community that would love to start a career as a technician. Unfortunately, they just don’t know how to make that happen. I am also certain that if you were to approach the right organizations in your communities, you would find a number of people that would love such an opportunity, especially if they come from an impoverished community. When I was operating shops I quickly discovered that the people most in need of an opportunity were not only committed to success, but they were eternally grateful as well.
Lastly, I realize that many shop owners are reluctant to start an apprenticeship program because they feel they don’t have all the systems in place to create an effective training program. When speaking with these shop owners, I like to remind them that if they hire the right people, those individuals will discover their own ways to get to the top, and become superstars. Need proof? Just take a look in a mirror. You will more than likely see a superstar tech that had (and still has) the right attitude, aptitude and ethics, developed skills in a timely way, and rose to the top.
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