A few years ago, the Greater Memphis Auto Dealers Association surveyed its 54 members about job vacancies for service technicians. The responses were alarming.
Member dealerships identified about 200 immediate openings for technicians — nearly four per store. As veteran techs retired or left for other careers, there weren't enough qualified candidates to replace them. Tech training costs were high, as the closest instructional programs were out of state.
So the Memphis dealers decided to "take the bull by the horns," says the association's president, Kent Ritchey. The association affiliated with a local technical college to create a tech training program, which will enroll its first students next month.
"We realized if we didn't do it, no one else is going to," says Ritchey, president of Landers Auto Group, which operates six franchised dealerships in Tennessee and Mississippi.
As dealerships face quicker turnover and shorter tenure among service technicians, along with growing customer reliance on — and demand for — service business, filling a tech vacancy by raiding the store down the street is no longer good enough. Instead, dealerships and dealer groups and associations are developing innovative ways to find, hire, train and keep service techs.