Where Are All the Technicians?
For the past several months, my managers and I have been trying to figure out how to address the overwhelming amount of recalls and warranty repairs that have inundated my service department without any real results. The problem always goes back to we just do not have enough trained technicians. Recently, I read that the United States Bureau of Labor and Statistics estimates that an average of 76,000 technicians are needed each year from now until 2026 to replace those retiring or leaving the industry and to fill some 46,000 projected new openings. Wow, that hit me hard. We may be out of luck as an industry soon, if not already.
We recently started paying a company to help us post and track job postings on several sites at once. Although this program has given our job posting more visibility in our area, we have not been able to attract any certified technicians. I don’t believe that there are any around looking to move. However, we are getting several applications for entry-level technicians. And that gives me some hope.
We have started interviewing and hiring all applicants with any kind of mechanical ability. Currently we add them to one of our express oil change teams to see if they can show up on time and handle the demands of work and environment. This has caused our 90-day turnover to sky rocket but we have found a few that we like and that want to work. These additional people in our quick lane have allowed us to speed up the training process of a few of our younger employees, instead of it taking employees five or 10 years to go from changing oil to working in the main shop. We have picked a few of the dedicated young employees and teamed them up with one of our master techs in an effort to try to meet more of the demand while still having a certified technician responsible for each repair.
This has helped some but, like with anything, there is a training curve for the apprentices, which cost us some productivity in the beginning. But as they complete some of their online training and get a little experience, under the watchful eye of a senior master technician, they have started to become productive employees for us. And they just continue to get better and faster. This was really all I could come up with to handle our current demand and it has helped.
Our future demands a different story, perhaps. I have gone out to high schools and discussed the opportunities available within our fields with teachers and guidance counselors until it seemed like I was preaching and nobody was listening. Our industry does have several stigmas associated to it, that go back for decades. This makes it hard for an educator to want to send their good students to us for work.
So, I have started the process of putting together a tuition assistance program for us to sponsor and help pay to send several students from our area to school to be trained and certified by the manufacturer. I am still in the process of getting everything put together to be able to present all of the information to the high schools. It is my hope that this time next year, we sponsor four or more students and, as they succeed, the word gets out and we have a list of students to pick from in the future.
Luckily, I am only currently struggling to get technicians for our Leavenworth location. Our new Oklahoma location has finally grown enough to keep our current employees busy most of the week. But, I am aware that as we continue to grow, I will be in the same position there that I am here and will have to find way to attract or grow employees there, as well.