F&I departments would do well to tap high schoolers

Students who are pursuing a career in automotive often know little about F&I operations at a dealership.

Automakers and suppliers such as General Motors and American Axle have established partnerships with high schools to breed the next generation of talent and give teenagers an industry education. Can the same be done in the F&I world?

Even those who are pursuing a career in automotive often know little about F&I. Northwood University students participating in EFG Cos.' F&I product competition in 2015, for example, did not know what CFPB stood for in the midst of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's actions against dealer reserve.

I would guess that most high school students don't even know what F&I is let alone that it can be a lucrative career.

On average, F&I managers make $132,786 annually, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association's 2016 Dealership Workforce Study. Teenagers, especially in low-income areas, may not know such an opportunity exists.

Honolulu Ford in Hawaii started a program in 2015 to introduce high school students to careers as service techs, but I have not heard of similar F&I exposure.

High school automotive experience should expand beyond automakers and suppliers into dealerships. With the right training -- and early -- the industry may be able to attract and retain young talent.

You can reach Hannah Lutz at hlutz@crain.com

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