Coaching the next generation requires us to take the initiative.
One thing that does concern me is the future of our industry. There are many of us who have invested 10, 20 or even more years in the automotive service repair business. It is our livelihood, but there hasn’t been enough done to help future generations to take over. This is part of the reason why I feel we, as shop owners and managers, have a responsibility to bring new people in and develop them into the next generation of licensed technicians and professional service advisors.
Taking the initative
Doing so means we grab the bull by the horns, invest the time and invest the money to make it happen. I know it’s not easy and there are many challenges we face, but if we are able to take a proactive approach, contact local high schools and colleges and funnel good kids, with good attitudes, and then take the time to train and develop them, we stand a much better chance of creating a new generation of highly skilled and competent professionals.
Besides taking proactive steps to provide training and support for the younger generation, we also have to ensure we create an environment that they actually want to work in. I see young people being turned off by the industry all the time because they might be exposed to dark, dirty, disorganized shops where techs are changing tires by hand because the tire changer is broken. A lot of the time, technicians find themselves having to order parts and deal with customers directly because the shop doesn’t have a trained service advisor, proper procedures or equipment in place. When these students enter a shop like that, there is nothing for them to do, and nobody to train them properly. It’s therefore not surprising that they decide to choose another career path instead and our industry loses out.
Making the investment
For us to attract the right people and keep them, we need to ensure we make the investments, so we have the latest equipment and tools and our staff are trained not only to use them but also to help these kids, participating in co-op programs and set the stage for them to become apprentices. If we don’t take the time to train our existing apprentices so they become licensed technicians, who will be the next generation to train future apprentices? In the short term, with a technician shortage and government limitations on technician/apprentice ratios, forward thinking automotive shops will be limited on how many apprentices they are legally allowed to employ.
Besides having highly trained technicians, highly trained service advisors are as important to deliver a great customer experience. This is another area where I feel we can make a difference and expose co-op students and young adults to a position that, if performed properly, sets apart good shops and great shops. I would like to see our industry create a specific service advisor course recognized by Ontario Colleges because we need these people. Not everybody wants to turn wrenches, and that’s fine, but if you have people with a good attitude and good personality they can become great service advisors, provided they are given the right training. If you want to become a legal or medical secretary, you’re required to go to school and earn a college diploma. Why should it not be the same for an automotive service advisor? If a degree was mandatory, I think it would be a huge benefit for the industry.