Fighting back against the shortage requires accountability, partnership

April 18, 2019
The collision industry is not a hapless victim in the plight of the technician shortage. They can fight back against the challenges of recruiting talent into our industry — but how?

NASHVILLE — The collision industry is not a hapless victim in the plight of the technician shortage. They can fight back against the challenges of recruiting talent into our industry — but how?

David Lueher, founder of Elite Body Shop Solutions, presented at the Collision Industry Conference in Nashville on April 18, and offered insight into the shortage facing the industry and what we can do to counter it.

Lueher delved into the depths of the shortage. Each year, more than 21, 500 collision repair technicians leave the industry, a trend that has increased steadily since 1995. An additional 31,000 techs leave their current employers for another job within the industry. And the average age of collision repair technicians is 38.7 compared with 35.5 in 1995, and more than a quarter of the existing workforce plan to either retire or change jobs in the next 12 months

“It’s simple to understand why people are exiting the business, but what stops new potential talent from entering the trade?” Lueher said. “From my perception, there are three major causes here.”

  1. Society’s unfortunate views of the skilled trade. “The unfortunate view that working with our hands is somehow unworthy,” Lueher said.
  2. We are mixing it up in an already very small pool of talent. “In some cases, we are competing with industries that are very well organized. There is extreme competition for the already small talent pool,” he said.
  3. It is our industry’s inability to attract the talent. “Rarely do we talk about what is it about our businesses that may be unattractive,” Lueher said.

A victim mentality may be part of the issue. “Victims often spend their time in the circle of concern — this means they blame things on factors outside of themselves — society, the insurance industry, etc.,” Lueher said. “But the winners spend the majority of their time in the circle of influence — the things that they can control. We all agree that the thing we have the most control over is our industry’s ability — or inability — to attract the talent, then what can we do?”

“Our attempts, up to now, have been to entice people into an industry that is unattractive to them,” Lueher said. He offered some assumptions on why the industry struggles:

  • Shop owners’ values & beliefs at odds with a younger generation of worker
  • Working conditions
  • Lack of vision or mission
  • Work-life balance
  • Lack of career paths
  • Lack of ability to work as a team

Fixing the problem
While it may not be easy, there are definitive steps the industry can take.

“We start by accepting personal responsibility,” Lueher said. He also encouraged the industry to better understand the needs of our younger generation and get focused on the things we do have some influence over.

“We stop trying to push people, and instead inform and attract,” he said. It is also vital to start working together to solve the problem in a way that works.

Working together
Attempts to fix the problem have been made by the industry, but Lueher described them as being “fragmented.”

He suggested creating a “mastermind group” of leaders with various skillsets working together in a spirit of focused harmony to attack this problem.

Possible project focuses that Lueher suggested for this mastermind group included helping shops build better work environments, structured career paths and formalized apprenticeship program, along with improving targeted social media marketing and raising more money together for schools and various programs.

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