ATLANTA -- While some dealers scream about technician shortages, Asbury Automotive Group is trying to plug those gaps by training more of its techs in-house.
The public dealership group launched Asbury Technical Institute last year in a former dealership in suburban Atlanta. So far, the school has produced 36 techs who were hired into jobs at Asbury stores. Another 25 or so are expected to graduate this year.
The school is expected to help Asbury reach its goal of adding between 200 and 400 technicians in the next couple of years.
"These students are moving right back into our stores and adding value in a relatively short period of time, so we just think it's a win-win for everybody," Asbury CEO Craig Monaghan told Automotive News.
Technicians themselves were the impetus for the school. Some Asbury master techs approaching retirement told executives they'd like to stay with the company in teaching roles. At the time, Asbury was moving an Audi dealership to a new site, which freed up the service department space at the old store. The first class of 12 technicians graduated in September, just in time to start filling open positions at Asbury's Atlanta-area Nalley dealerships.
"We're always on the edge of having enough technicians," said Ryland Owen, Asbury regional director of training and recruiting.
The volume of work in Asbury's service departments grew during the recession, and that has continued, Owen said. At the same time, the repair industry has suffered from a decline in people interested in becoming technicians, creating bottlenecks for dealerships.
"You combine all these forces, and we realized we were coming to a point where we just can't plain do enough work for customers and meet their needs and grow our business unless we have enough technicians," Owen said. "And we're faced with a general lack of technicians in the marketplace. Corporate decided let's make an investment here."