By the numbers, if U.S. auto dealerships want to solve the problem of the lack of trained and qualified managers for their divisions and stores, all they really have to do is wait for the next generation.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that they would have to wait about 10 years before seasoned staff come on in the ranks or graduate from accredited training programs.
It would be hard to argue that the training opportunities are not available, because management programs for finance, marketing, sales, personal relations, human resources, service, distribution and every other facet of dealership management are out there and the industry, again, can thank numbers for that.
As you might suspect by now, we’re talking about the baby boomer generation. Every kind of infrastructure imaginable including roads, hospitals, schools, airports and even dealership training programs were built to accommodate the huge population bubble that came from the g generation of Baby Boomers. By 2010, those born from 1945 to 1960 accounted for 25 percent of the population, numbering, at that point, 77.3 million persons who were by then ages 55 to 70.
Nine years later, the same generation is now aged 64 to almost 80 and their numbers are dwindling.
That means that all those programs built to accommodate the Boomers generation are seeing their numbers drop and specialized industries, such as auto dealerships, are finding it difficult to find qualified management-level personnel to run their shops.
Said Gary Maike, coordinator for the Ferris State University Automotive Management program, the opportunities for terrific dealership jobs exist, but the public is largely unaware of this. Why? First of all, there are not as many high school graduates as there were. Secondly, consolidation has re-shaped the industry in ways that remove some of the more visible opportunities from the national landscape.
Once upon a time almost every small town had a locally-owned dealership. As such, management positions were on display and clearly available to local residents. With consolidation, management has become more specialized and a step removed from Main Street.
In the meantime, student numbers made of Generation X or the Millennial generation at Ferris State, Maike said, are holding steady with about 150 enrolled in the two-tier program. In addition, there is an online component that appeals to students in pursuit of a Bachelor’s degree.
The two tiers at Ferris State include a two-year technical degree and a four-year Bachelor’s degree in dealership management. Almost anyone with a two-year degree or an appropriate certificate is accepted into the Bachelor’s program, including older students who might be working at a mid-level or entry-level post in a dealership and feel unable to move up the ladder.
Typical of the Bachelor’s program, he said, was a recent graduate who had been a long-term technical trainer for an OEM. “There was nothing we could do for him from a technical standpoint; he’d been training technicians for years,” Maike said. But a management position was opening up and “the job was his provided he get the Bachelor’s degree.” He went through the program and remains dutiful employed in the industry to this day.
Ferris State graduates own and operate their own dealerships, own dealership groups and find employment in every type of dealership position, including internships that get their feet in the door.
At the finance-focused Automotive Dealership Institute in Scottsdale, Arizona, demographics are actually shifting in the other direction, said Latara Marshall, Director of Course Services.
Their demographic is shifting younger for the Institute’s month-long finance and insurance training. Recently, their youngest ever enrollee took the course, a 19-year old.
The school offers an intensive program with nine hours a day in the classroom Monday through Friday, so there are not a lot of “maybe this is for me” students. You don’t jump into a program that intensive with a lot of doubts about whether or not it is the right thing to do.
For those who can wait, there is good news: The U.S. Census Bureau that now says that the Millennial Generation, those born from 1982 to 2000, have overtaken the Baby Boomers. There are now 83.1 million Millennials in the country, compared with 77.3 million of the fabled, but fading Baby Boomers.
That makes Millennials currently 18-36 years old, which means some are on the cusp of management age, while some maybe precious enough to jump into management about now.