1. Ramp Up Recruiting. High schools often don’t oﬀer “shop” classes anymore, and guidance counselors today push more kids to apply to college. That means young people might never hear about a career as an auto technician. Robinson says some dealerships have done a great job building relationships with and increasing awareness at high school and college vocational programs — buying tools for the programs, sponsoring tech classes and attending career days. “We need to spread the message: Dealerships can oﬀer a young person the opportunity to make a good living as a service tech, without taking on massive college debt,” Ford says. Andy Church, COO of Dealer Solutions North America, suggests creating apprenticeship programs oﬀering high school and college students part-time technician jobs until they graduate. A small number of U.S. dealerships — “under 5 percent,” he says — oﬀer these programs.
2. Promote Service Technician Jobs More Effectively. Robinson suggests dealerships think about technician jobs as products, consider what sort of person would want those jobs and why they’d want to work at the dealership, then market the jobs speciﬁcally to those people. He also points out that as technician jobs evolve to accommodate changes in automotive technology, “Often, techs are becoming more like hardware engineers — and that sort of job appeals to a certain kind of person,” Robinson says. “Electric vehicles, autonomous driving, connected cars — all these create a whole new category of service and repair. We should be selling that opportunity.”
3. Reconsider Pay Plans and Work Schedule. “In our part of the industry, both the way we pay and the amount we pay are issues,” Church says. “If someone is ﬁnishing up trade school and considering whether to go work at a dealership or work for the government or the trucking or aviation industries, for instance, they ﬁnd those other industries pay for a 40-hour workweek with a predictable salary. The younger generations in particular don’t want to be paid on commission, don’t want to work more than 40 hours a week and want a more competitive salary.”
4. Take Time to Support New Techs. Automakers usually provide training for a dealership’s service techs, but beyond that, techs often are treated as independent contractors at a dealership, Church says. For instance, many stores still expect techs to purchase their own tools and accessories — an investment that can range from $5,000 to $50,000. “In today’s world, people want to be part of an organization,” Church says. For techs, that might mean being able to use tools supplied by the dealership.
5. Regularly Engage with Service Department Employees. Too often, says Dealer Solutions’ Church, the door that closes the shop oﬀ from the rest of the dealership “ends up being like the wall in ‘Game of Thrones.’ ” That sense of isolation can create a service department culture completely separate from the dealership’s larger culture in sales and F&I. To keep the service department connected to the rest of the team, Church recommends setting up a monthly meeting of the service techs, service manager and general manager. Ford of ESI Trends agrees: “Dealers and general managers need to spend time in the service department; they can’t just ﬂ oat back there once in a while.” Especially for younger employees, she says, it’s important to connect on a personal level with management on a regular basis. “Millennials grew up having a seat at the table,” Ford says. “They need their voice