Now, more than ever, it’s challenging to recruit automotive technicians. The position isn’t sexy enough to draw attention from high school graduates, and technical colleges are seeing a decline in enrolment.
TechForce Foundation released a Technician Demand report that gives sobering numbers. The forecasted demand for automotive technicians skyrocketed between 2014 and 2016, from an annual average of 23,720 to 75,900 available positions. That number is expected to climb in excess of 92,000. To clarify, that means the forecast is for more than 92,000 automotive technician jobs to go unfilled in the United States every year.
The technician shortage is real. Its actual impact on a busy dealership with even one vacancy is devastating, and in more ways than one.
Equating Technician Vacancies with Unrealized Revenue
The first point that consistently arises is the lost income. With an average gross profit per hour of production estimated at $80, it escalates quickly. Per full eight-hour workday, the service department leaves $640 of gross profit on the table. Calculated over a year, that’s $166,400. A highly efficient technician may be capable of averaging up to 12 hours per day in production – sometimes more – increasing the impact by another 50 percent.
It’s a huge impact on a dealership, and even more so for small to medium stores that can’t survive without that income. TechForce estimates total auto technician positions in the United States at 749,900. If 92,000 positions are vacant, that’s one in eight benches that don’t have someone pulling wrenches. Can you afford to cut 12 percent of the technicians out of your service department?
Understaffing Affects the Customer Experience
The same report notes an increase in positions, and that’s indicative of an increase in customers visiting the service department. Vehicle systems are becoming more complex, requiring the specialized training of a dealership employee to perform maintenance and corrective repairs. With an influx of customers and a decline in technicians, the customer experience is set to suffer enormously.
It begins with longer wait times to make an appointment. That extends to longer service visits and perhaps less experienced technicians causing repeat repairs. The customer experience becomes a frustrating exercise, and one that reflects in online reviews, CSI surveys, and customer spending at your dealership. Compounding further, that bad experience can and will cost repeat car sales.
Attract and Retain Good Technicians
For dealers with a full stable of technicians, it’s imperative to keep them on board and productive. Provide an incentive package that encourages a tenure. For example, offer an accumulating bonus – say $2 per hour produced – that pays out 50 percent annually. Bank the remaining 50 percent, which builds into larger payouts every year. Should a technician want to move on, a reminder that they will be leaving thousands of dollars behind is encouragement enough to reconsider.
For dealers who need to attract new talent, a great place to start are local technical colleges. Partner with automotive technician courses to offer apprenticeship opportunities. It gives you the ability to ‘cherry pick’ students with high potential and offer a future position upon graduation. Also, service managers or shop foremen can visit local high school shops classes to encourage entry into trades such as automotive technicians.
The current pool of available automotive technicians is shallow. Make strides toward shoring up your service department before the shortage hits you hard.