Filling The Gap – How Automobile Dealerships Are Involved In Educating A New Generation

The Future Employment Landscape

The automobile industry is as strong as the human capital within it. For dealerships to be successful there has to be a healthy supply of workers from many disciplines: marketing, advertising, sales, operations, technicians, finances, accounting, and the list could go on. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field of automotive service technicians and mechanics are expected to experience growth of 5 percent between 2014 and 2024. Also, with a future that is looking to embrace more technology with the incorporation of more innovative automobile technologies, there will be a significant need for dealerships to be prepared to not only sell to the public but inform them of what they need. The largest questions remain, who is educating the next generation of automobile dealer employees? And, how are dealers playing a part in this process?

The Role of Community Colleges and Universities

In 2009, published its list of the top ten automotive colleges and universities. There were a lot of familiar names on the list: Clemson, Georgia Tech, Cornell, Kettering, and many others. However, the emphasis was more so on car engineering. Many times, conversations about automotive dealership management and operations do not happen when discussing colleges and universities, but a few notable partnerships are forming to encourage retail automotive education. The staff at Odessa College, a two-year technical school in Odessa, Texas has used dealer partnerships to its advantage to provide more advanced opportunities to students interested in automotive education. In 2013, the Sewell Family of local dealers in Odessa donated its facility to the college to propel the college’s auto diesel program. The handoff is slated to occur later this year. Another notable higher education institution making waves is Northwood University. The school has a comprehensive and well-known automotive marketing and management program that partner with local dealers. Since 2012, the university has placed 95% of their graduates in positions with auto groups like Asbury, LaFontaine, Wickstrom and Al Serra, along with manufacturers and independent dealerships.

Job Training Programs With High-Profile Brands

Some manufacturers are taking the training directly to students. One important agreement that has emerged is between Tesla and Farmingdale State College in New York. Tesla’s goal is to provide training internships for two-year technical college students and four-year automotive management program students with the expectation that the internships will turn into full-time positions upon graduation. In 2017, Keiser University, a not-for-profit private university in Florida, is planning to partner directly with dealers in the area for their automotive executive education program. During all four years, the students will have the opportunity to engage in internships with dealers in Fort Lauderdale, Florida with the hope of them turning into full-time positions upon graduation.

The Shortage Urgently Driving Dealers Into Action

As stated earlier, the field of automotive management and operations continues to grow. A large part of this is the work of technicians. An April 2017 article in the New York Times discussed the urgent need for automobile technicians. Even though the jobs promise large salaries, the disappearance of high school vocation programs that funnel students into the programs and a need for more technology training has created a dire shortage. As a result, dealers and manufacturers have been visiting college career fairs to meet students where they are. Mark Davis, the manager of the automotive program at Seminole State University in Sanford, FL, expressed his concern that there will be a 25,000 shortage of technicians at American dealerships in the next five years. He ended with a dire warning that there may not be enough training institutions within the country to support them.

What are Dealers Doing To Address Automotive Education Needs?

Organizations like the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), the Greater New York Automobile Dealer Association (GNYADA), and many other regional associations understand the need for continuing education and have created their certification programs to fill the gaps. The NADA has developed a six-week intensive Academy to address issues such as financial management, fixed and variable operations, and business leadership. The program provides hands-on applications and networking opportunities with renowned automobile dealership professionals. The GNYADA has conducted similar training and workshops for over 30 years to cover popular aspects of the car dealership industry. From directly partnering with colleges and universities to develop career pipelines for students or supporting continuing education later on in their careers, dealers are recognizing the importance of preparing the present and future generations for an evolving auto industry.