"Knowing that tech turnover is an industry issue, we wanted to be ahead of the game," Helsel told Fixed Ops Journal. Southeast is sharing the results, he adds, so its dealerships can learn from those service departments that retain techs the longest.
Keeping experienced and talented technicians is important to a dealership's bottom line. Southeast Toyota estimates a dealership must spend nearly $5,000, not including the cost of lost work hours, to bring a technician up to the level of master tech.
Tech retention also correlates with customer retention, Helsel says.
The dealerships that keep techs the longest tend to "grow their own," Helsel says. They maintain relationships with tech training programs at local schools and colleges, providing tools and donating vehicles for students to work on, he adds.
Successful dealerships also give their techs on-the-job training, flexible work hours, a positive work environment and competitive pay, Helsel adds. "Techs will leave for a dollar an hour."
JM Family Enterprises helps train technicians for more than its own dealerships. The Youth Automotive Training Center, established by JM Family Enterprises founder Jim Moran, is in the company's hometown of Deerfield Beach. Fla.
The tuition-free center teaches basic automotive technology, as well as life management skills, to disadvantaged young people in the community. It is funded by the Jim Moran Classic Golf Tournament, held each November in Orlando.
Of the program's 725 graduates, two-thirds have made use of their tech training in some way, says Terry Routley, the center's executive director.
"Dealerships are looking for other avenues to find techs," Routley says. "We are trying to build good citizens as well."
The center teaches students the basics of brake repair as well as steering and suspension, four-wheel alignment, cooling system repair, and preventive maintenance, Routley says. "We have a pretty in-depth curriculum for nine months," he adds.