Even as new-vehicle dealers search exhaustively for service technicians, a would-be tech who trains to work at a dealership can end up in a variety of other industries or different auto business segments, making the retail shortage worse.
"The big issue is just attracting people to this career," said Harry Hollenberg, managing director of the Carlisle & Co. research and consulting firm, based in Concord, Mass.
"Schools don't get a lot of credit for how many people they send to technical training," Hollenberg says. "What everybody looks at is the percent of graduates who go to college, and the average SAT score, right?"
Meanwhile, other industries need technicians who are trained to fix vehicles, Hollenberg says. Oil and gas companies, agricultural firms and municipalities may offer techs more regular and less demanding hours, better benefits and greater stability than a dealership, he adds.
Even within the industry, technicians may end up working on heavy trucks, for independent used-car dealerships or for quick-service outlets. It's hard for most new-vehicle dealerships to compete with employers that offer a 9-to-5 schedule, pensions and full insurance coverage, Hollenberg notes.