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I have spent most of the past three weeks in Oklahoma at our new store putting processes in place and training our new employees on the programs we use.  While I was there, I was invited to attend one of the technical college’s advisory board meetings. Even though we have owned the Chevy store for roughly a year, I have not reached out to any of the schools in the area to start to build a relationship. I guess when I was there, I was always concentrating on something else. Either I was fixing something, meeting with our factory representatives or just trying to build the business enough to keep all of our technicians busy.  Shame on me. Recruiting people into our industry should always be priority.

My first meeting regarding recruiting in Oklahoma was for the Ford ASSET program. For the first few hours, we had a question and answer session with the twelve students that will graduate in May (column written in May).  I found it interesting only two of the sponsoring dealerships had representatives at the meeting. On top of that, very few of the students had a defined mentorship program. More than half of the students spent the entire two years of the program working on the lube rack doing oil changes.

From what I could tell just by talking with them, at least eight will be looking for a different dealership or place of employment after they graduate. This is really a shame.  Although the students have completed the prescribed course work and will be Ford certified (on paper at least) when they graduate, they have not been given the chance to practice and grow their skills with every module they complete. This makes it very hard to walk into another dealership and be able to produce right away without requiring additional supervision and training.

This is concerning for me as we have a hard-enough time filling the classes we have and some dealerships are dropping the ball when they actually get someone into the program. The Oklahoma program is designed to handle twenty-four students, yet this year, only twelve will graduate. And next year, only eighteen are enrolled.

It’s not all bad news. Ford and several of the dealerships that were represented at the meeting have started recruiting at local high schools by pushing information out on how our industry is growing and changing. However, I believe that if we do not make an industry wide push, several of the colleges we have technical training programs in now will be forced to close. This is already happening to collision repair programs throughout the nation.

The future of our industry remains, in my opinion, very bleak.  If we cannot make the positions we have available in fixed operations attractive to the general public, we will continue to be unable to handle the demand to repair the increasingly complex vehicles our manufacturers are producing.

 

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