Audi and Jaguar Land Rover dealerships are turning to skilled military veterans to help ease the industry's chronic shortage of service technicians.
Other brands should follow their lead and take advantage of this largely untapped resource.
Audi's Veterans to Technicians Program and JLR's Veterans Careers initiative are administered by Calibre Systems Inc. of Alexandria, Va., a company that focuses on management consulting and information technology solutions. Calibre recruits and screens service personnel who are leaving the military and matches them with specific jobs at dealerships.
It makes perfect sense for veterans to work in the service and parts departments of new-car dealerships. The U.S. military operates one of the world's largest fleets of technically advanced vehicles.
Tanks, helicopters, jets, boats and Humvees are loaded with advanced electronics and navigation equipment. Keeping them, as well as military automobiles, in pristine mechanical condition requires many of the same basic math, diagnostic and repair skills needed in new-car service departments.
Getting the right parts to the right place at the right time also requires skills that can be useful in the parts department. Veterans are programmed to be punctual, do the job right the first time and work as part of a team.
Audi and Jaguar Land Rover say their veterans programs have helped their dealerships fill vacancies for service technicians quickly, with experienced and motivated recruits.
Audi was the first automaker to contract with Calibre, in 2012. Nearly all of Audi's 288 U.S. dealerships participate in the program, and at least 300 veterans have been hired.
Audi spokeswoman Kristin Ford-Glencross says the average veteran hired under the program is 35 years old and served at least 10 years in the military. One-third of the veterans worked as aviation technicians, and another third repaired ground vehicles.
JLR launched its Veterans Careers initiative in January. Today, 168 of the company's 217 U.S. dealers have enrolled in the program.
Through last month, 62 veterans have been recruited, sent to JLR's fast-track veterans training program in Atlanta and hired for full-time positions as service technicians.