November-December

26 H owmany times have you heard this over the past few years? How many times have you, yourself uttered it?Maybe it was in frustration over yet another employee failing to show up to work or a promising recruit moving on to a new opportunity for an extra dollar an hour. Perhaps it was in amazement that even though unemployment has reached a near two-decade low, you keep hearing educated and able-bodied young people complaining about there being “no good jobs out there.” If you work in the automotive industry, this likely comes as no surprise. For several years now, employment statistics have continued to report an alarming shortage of automotive technicians—a trend that shows no signs of slowing down, unfortunately. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics says that automotive service professions are expected to grow an average six percent over the next 10 years, adding approximately 46,000 new jobs to the pool. Factoring in all the positions that will be vacated as employees retire or change fields, and the government predicts that the transportation industry will need an average of 76,000 new automotive technicians each year to fill in those gaps. And it’s not just about having bodies in the shop. Today’s vehicles are becoming more complex, requiring expensive computerized equipment to diagnose the problem before it can be resolved. Dealerships need skilled problem solvers who are comfortable utilizing both technological and mechanical dexterity to get the job done. And as drivers become increasingly dependent on sophisticated entertainment systems and advanced safety features, dealerships are faced with the growing concern of who exactly is going to fix all this tech when it suddenly stops working. Even well-versed backyardmechanics find that there are fewer repairs they can accomplish on their own, as one wrong turn of the wrench can result in an expensive error and voided warranty. The National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) reports that in 2017, “dealerships wrote more than 316 million repair orders, with service and parts sales exceeding $114 billion.” That’s over 12% of total revenue, proving that service departments provide a significant source of income—particularly as car buying becomes more competitive, resulting in slashed prices and thinner margins. But with more cars on the road and fewer technicians in the bays, an already strained workforce is feeling the heat. And when employees have to do more work in less time, the consequence is inferior results and upset customers. Getting to the Root of the Problem So how did we get here? Well, that depends on who you ask. Analysts will argue that trade jobs in general are lacking, as high school programs disappear and counselors continue to push four-year college degrees, while the media likes to blame those “lazy, entitled, and disinterested millennials.” But if you ask automotive technicians, as well as the shop owners and dealerships in charge of hiring them, much of the blame falls on the industry itself. Spend some time with a seasoned veteran of the trade and they won’t hesitate to tell you this isn’t like wrenching on your hobby car. The automotive industry is tough. It’s hard work with long hours, and too often, a payment system that undervalues the time and effort put in to complete a job. Technicians are required to buy many of their own tools, meaning more personal investment than comparable trades. Keeping up with certifications is also costly, an expense that many dealerships and shops don’t cover. And with the herd of skilled workers growing thin, many employees struggle to get time off or are expected to work extra hours. Add in a physically demanding work space, often requiring heavy lifting, crawling into awkward spaces, handling toxic chemicals, and breathing in fumes and it’s a wonder anyone willingly chooses this industry at all. And yet they do. Mechanics by trade but enthusiasts by heart, many workers enter this field because of a passion for all things automotive. But as the future of Fixing th Recruiting,Train Nobody wants to work anymore...

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