Technician Shortage? Not For Everyone

Technician Shortage? Not For Everyone

For top shop owners, there's no technician shortage because they operate places people want to work.

Courtesy of ShopOwner by Doug Kaufman

We’ve all heard the news that there are far fewer technicians than are currently needed across all segments of the automotive industry.

According to our friends at TechForce Foundation, that disparity will only increase due to a shrinking number of expected graduates from automotive, diesel and collision repair programs. 

The supply of incoming automotive techs from post-secondary programs dropped 11.8% from 2021-2022, according to TechForce’s 2022 Transportation Technician Supply & Demand Report. 

TechForce estimates that demand for new entrant automotive/diesel/collision repair technicians – for new positions, replacements for occupational separations and unfilled positions from prior years – will total well over 900,000 through 2026. 

And, as the current stable of automotive professionals continues to, let’s say, “season” and decides that retirement is looking pretty good, you might be tempted to think there is nothing you can do about it. 

I would submit to you that the only way to eliminate the technician shortage is not to have one.

Wait… what?

Don’t misunderstand – I’m not suggesting that you ignore reality by pretending that today’s job market isn’t in a confusing mess. We all have friends who share employment hiring and retention horror stories with us – and maybe you have stories of your own. It’s hard to find your next great teammate!

Or is it?

I was speaking with industry friend Vic Tarasik the other day, and he shared a story to which you might relate – or by which be inspired.

Vic says he was having a conversation with shop owner Dwayne Myers from Dynamic Automotive about keys to a successful business. Dwayne is in the process of opening his sixth shop in the Frederick, Maryland, area and says he doesn’t see a technician shortage.

Of course, he’s not naive – Dwayne knows the reality of this volatile job market. But, for him, a technician shortage isn’t a problem because he does things to make his shops places people want to work.

“He’s planning to take five or six people to AAPEX in the fall,” Vic told me. “It’ll probably cost him $30,000 all in – and he says it’s money well spent.”

That may seem like a huge wager for a trip to Las Vegas, but Dwayne says it’s no gamble. 

“Is it worth the risk? Absolutely,” Dwayne says. “One of these techicians will come back with training that will generate $500,000 worth of work. By taking five of them, we’re looking at $2.5 million of increased service business – that $30,000 investment is worth it.”

It’s this attitude, Vic says, that helps some shops overlook a tech shortage.

“For guys like Dwayne, who have a great attitude, a great culture and offer a partnership, it’s a retention tool AND a recruiting tool,” Vic says. “His current employees and future techs alike know they’ll benefit in the long term.”

Wondering if your shop can weather a technician shortage? Maybe it’s time to stop worrying about what you can’t change in society, and consider what you can change in your shop.

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Speed vs Quality in Automotive Repair

Quality is number one. Don’t sacrifice your standards.

speed versus quality chart

The flat rate system most likely holds the title for controversy in automotive repair shops. Is it a good system, or is it flawed? Truth is, it’s a good system, or at least there’s plenty of logic behind it. But, unfortunately, it’s also flawed in a lot of ways.Will we ever have a better system? Who knows, but what’s important is how we as technicians respond to it all. One of the big problems is how many young technicians are introduced into the field and where they’re getting their experience. It comes down to one of two situations.One, you’re in a shop that has a genuine focus on quality, and the main concern is getting the job done right. The shop owners and service managers who support this ideal and encourage their technicians to take a few extra minutes in the interest of quality are the “best of the best.”The other possibility is a situation where the entire operation is only about money. All they look at is production, production, production. This can be tough for any of us, especially young technicians who are still trying to find their way. They’re forced to hurry before they have time to develop the mechanical and organizational skills they need to work efficiently and produce quality results.I’ve been in both situations, and as technicians, we must pay bills like everyone else, but as tempting as it is to nail the flat-rate time, I’ve never gone into it with that mindset. A perfect example is when I started a new job at a large shop. Nobody knew me, so naturally the service advisors were reluctant to give me much, and early on, I’m sure they thought, “that oil change took him 10 minutes longer than the car wash kid who just transitioned to technician. I thought he was supposed to be experienced.”Then, there was the shop manager who insisted on touring the shop every 15 minutes. “Comin’ apart or goin’ back together?” was his favorite quip. The only thing he instilled in the shop was getting as much work done as possible. But I refused to sacrifice my quality. Did that mean I was slow? Not by any means because I worked efficiently. But, I wasn’t the fastest either. Top speed was owned by those who didn’t care about quality.Then, the oil change hero forgot to put the filter on a car that happened to be in for its very first oil change. Fill it up, slam the hood and back it out was his M.O. He must have known the meaning of the look I gave him, because he said “what, you’ve never done that?” My answer was an immediate and unequivocal “no.”The moral of the story is that it didn’t take long before I was one of the most requested technicians by the service advisors. Difficult problems, other techs’ comebacks; there was no more time for excuses and embarrassment. They wanted the cars fixed right, the first time. And the best part of it all, they paid me for my time. If the service advisor said, “I can pay you only this,” and I said, “if I’m going to fix it, I’m going to need the time I have in it,” they’d somehow figure out how to pay me.Quality is number one. Don’t sacrifice your standards. Efficiency comes with time, speed comes with efficiency, and nothing costs more than a comeback, a damaged car or a damaged reputation. TS

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