A shortage of technicians is not just an issue facing dealers. Auction services, too, say good tech help is often hard to find.
To that end, the National Auto Auction Association is contracting with CARS Recon Inc. to help member auctions recruit and hire technicians. At an auction's request, CARS Recon will use social media and traditional recruiting methods, as well as leverage alliances with trade schools and community colleges to solicit job applicants. It will screen candidates before referring them to an auction.
NAAA plans to announce the arrangement at its 2018 Used Car Week, which starts Monday, Nov. 12, in Scottsdale, Ariz.
In addition, NAAA is donating $50,000 to the National Automobile Dealers Association's Workforce Initiative. A part of the NADA Foundation, the initiative is designed to promote careers in the auto tech and service fields. The NAAA money will go toward creating a brand-neutral website, videos, digital media, marketing materials, exhibits at conference and relevant career fairs. NADA is expected to release more on its own road map for luring more technicians to the industry at its annual convention in January.
To underscore the need for this kind of effort, NAAA cites Bureau of Labor Statistics figures that say an average of 76,000 mechanics would be needed each year in the next decade to replace those at retirement age or those who leave the industry and to fill an estimated 46,000 new openings.
Dealers have frequently cited the shortage to Automotive News anecdotally, pointing to reasons such as competition with other industries, a lack of vocational awareness and vehicles becoming too complicated for parents and their kids to casually work on in backyards.
NAAA President Warren Clauss has made it one of his priorities while in the rotating position to tackle the dearth of auto techs in the auction sector. Clauss, of ADESA Buffalo, will be replaced this week by President-elect Chad Bailey of Akron Auto Auctions during NAAA's 70th annual convention.
In a September interview with Automotive News, Clauss noted that automotive machinery used to be far simpler.
"And if your dad was a technician, or a carpenter, or a plumber, or a pipe fitter, or a bricklayer, or whatever, a lot of times you followed in his footsteps," he said, adding that now vehicles are more like large computers. "It's not just this vocation. There's a lot of vocations that have struggled. How do you reinvent that wheel, how do you tell the up-and-coming students that there is a viable industry here?"
Meanwhile, safety continues to be another focal point for the organization. Hundreds of 2-ton machines roll through every auto auction, so naturally some kind of safety protocol is needed.
But the issue received greater attention after a May 2017 accident at Lynnway Auto Auction near Boston killed five people. An auction driver lost control of a 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee and crashed through a wall. The auction ended up receiving more than $267,000 in fines and 16 citations from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
In March, NAAA's board of directors adopted new safety guidelines for auctions that include a set of procedures, practices and educational programming. As of last week, more than 38,000 members had completed the training and become certified by NAAA, and another 10,000 are expected to be certified by the end of the year, NAAA CEO Frank Hackett said.
While the incident in Massachusetts is an extreme example, Clauss said he thinks safety can be an issue when auction attendees become too comfortable in an environment they've visited, often multiple times a week, for several years. But, he added, "when you really look at it, if you were to come to an auction and it was your first time, you'd kind of look at it saying, you know, there's a lot of moving parts and pieces," he said.
A lot of what the NAAA teaches are fundamental guidelines such as prohibiting drivers from using cell phones, making sure vehicles are kept a proper distance from each other and requiring bright-colored vests to be worn.
"When you think about it, there's no rocket science [to it] either," Clauss said. "But it's just over and over and over again where now all the sudden you build [safety] so it becomes a habit."