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In my last blog, Technicians are the Key to Dealerships’ Future, I discussed how the race to acquire technicians may just be outweighed by the difficult task of retaining the ones dealerships already employ.
Of course, as consumers keep their vehicles longer and the amount of recalls increases, qualified technicians will be inundated with recruitment offers and the lure of higher pay. No matter how good your company culture is, a boost in income can tempt even the most loyal of employees. But, similar to Tesla and other industry disrupters, it now seems the auto industry has another villain to deal with - all other technology companies.
As automotive dealerships and manufacturers focus on hiring, training and retaining qualified technicians to handle the increasing amount of technology in today’s vehicles, these technicians are getting an education that has grown outside the field of the automotive industry. Modern in-vehicle technology demands a high level of training and experienced technicians to service and repair them. This level of expertise makes the technicians attractive to technology companies outside the automotive industry.
And a big problem is now growing even more significant.
In a recent article in Automotive News, vice president of the Automotive Service Association stated, “an individual trained at a high level on the electronic side becomes very attractive to other segments of our economy, such as aerospace and fleet operations. We are competing for the same level of talent with other, more complex industries.”
And many of those industries pay more.
The challenge is multi-faceted. First, the auto industry must keep and train qualified technicians at advanced levels of experience to merely maintain the existing number of vehicles on the road and those that will be added in the future. Second, with the continuing amount of recalls announced daily, manufacturers and dealers need these technicians to keep up with the pace, which can be an overwhelming work environment. Third, as the number of students choosing a career as an automotive technician continues to decline, the future pool of talent looks bleak. Last, but not least, if sales of new vehicles continue to drop as many experts predict, dealerships will be even more reliant on service revenue.
You can expand the facilities. You can add more shop-capacity and utilize all available technology to increase efficiency. However, without trained technicians qualified to work on the modern, technology-filled vehicles of today, these efforts will probably be in vain. It’s hard to believe that as little as 10 years ago, dealerships weren’t worried about CPUs and onboard computers, much less OTA updates.
Technology companies are watching and waiting; timing the opportunity to recruit away your service technicians. Forget about the life preserver, these aren’t just sharks coming to feed, but Jaws coming to devour.
As an industry, what are we going to do to save ourselves from becoming chum? Are we going to sit back and watch other industries strip away our talent? Or are we going to create a more lucrative and inviting environment – the kind that makes us a preferred destination.
We may need a bigger boat.