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Help Wanted: Skilled Service Technicians

Jun 1, 2017

If an auto mechanic working in the 1970s or 1980s were suddenly transported in time to 2017, he or she would likely be baffled by the complex technology under the hood of today’s vehicles.

The average new car or truck contains up to 50 different computers! This preponderance of technology has significantly bumped up the skill level required of service technicians.

Computers and wrenches

Today’s technicians have to be as comfortable working with computers as they are turning wrenches. And that makes it more difficult for many dealerships to find workers who possess the necessary skill sets.

In fact, operations in some parts of the country are facing a labor shortage when it comes to hiring technicians trained to service today’s vehicles. Some are taking a proactive approach to solving this problem.

For example, some dealerships are partnering with area community colleges and dealership associations to help the schools provide up-to-date service tech training. In these relationships, the dealerships and colleges work together to create educational programs that provide students with relevant course materials, hands-on training and dealership internships.

An explosive need

One example is in California, where a Toyota dealership has partnered with an area community college to provide certification in Toyota’s Technician Training & Education Network (or T-TEN) program. This program was created to meet what Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A.’s technician-development manager has described in the trade press as the “explosive” need for qualified service techs.

Another example is in Florida, where the Central Florida Auto Dealers Association (CFADA) has built its own technical training center at a local community college. The CFADA Professional Automotive Training Center is a $10 million, 55,000-square-foot facility with 40 bays, 33 lifts and five high-tech classrooms.

Students who attend this training center can earn a two-year Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree in Automotive Service Management Technology, as well as a one-year Automotive Service Technology certificate and training certificates in automotive maintenance and light repair. Training at the center is geared toward the needs of specific auto manufacturers, including General Motors and Ford.

And a community college in Ohio offers an automotive technology training program that’s fully accredited by the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation. Students here can earn a two-year A.A.S. degree in the MOPAR Career Automotive Program. This program’s training is geared toward meeting the technical service needs of Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram dealerships.

After attending classes for half a semester, students in this program apprentice at an area dealership for the rest of the semester. According to the college, students should be 85% to 90% trained toward meeting the certification requirements for a Chrysler Master Technician when they graduate.

Import training also available

Service technician training at the community college level also is available for budding new mechanics who want to work on import vehicles. This is especially important in states such as California, where import vehicles account for 73% of the market. For instance, a community college in California offers an automotive technology program that provides training for students who want to learn how to work on Mercedes-Benz vehicles.

The college works directly with area dealerships to provide internships and to help students receive the kind of technical training the dealerships need their service technicians to possess. The dealerships, in turn, donate parts to the college so students can get real hands-on experience working with the latest new vehicle technologies.

Expand your employee pool

The service department remains an important profit center for most dealerships, which makes hiring qualified service technicians critical. If you’re having trouble finding the kind of qualified technicians you need, talk to your area dealership association and community college about how you might be able to work together to solve this problem.

By taking a proactive stance now, you may be able to help young mechanics get the technical training they need while also expanding your future pool of service department employees.

Dealer Insights - May/June 2017

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