Over the last few months a recurring theme I am hearing when I am traveling outside the shop on industry meetings and events is attracting and retaining new folks to our industry.
If you have read the column over the last few months I have commented on it and evangelized how we might get something done. This month I am going to visit this one more time.
For new people coming into the industry there are two big costs that are disproportionate to the potential entry-level income. First, is the cost of schooling, which can easily get near the cost of a two-year college degree. I am going to make some enemies here but I just so love those nasty notes in my email box.
Look, it costs a lot of money to set up a trade school with current equipment, teachers and all of the education necessities that go along with taking young women and men from thinking cars are cool to being able to work on them. That is sort of a fixed cost if you will.
I think that the new National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF) standards will help to make it so two-year students can support themselves and continue learning as they work in a live repair shop.
The other item that is the most disproportionate is the cost of entry. Tools and tool boxes are a significant investment for entry level and journeyman techs. Nothing makes my dad more upset than paying the copier guy $135 bucks an hour when his tool kit fits in a briefcase. It’s all a matter of perspective when moving dad’s toolbox would require three guys pushing and steering.
The struggle for the new guys is, “Do I buy some inexpensive tools that will get me by or do I buy the premium tools where one screwdriver costs more than the entire deluxe set over at the hardware store?”
Most of us who do this for a living know the answer is you buy the quality tools because they make you work faster with the least amount of damage to you and the car and they last longer.
There are some great tool programs for students out there that you ought to know about. The longest standing programs out there are the deals Snap-On, Mac Tools and Matco do for students that provide them a nice entry-level tool set for a significant discount.
This shows their commitment to the industry. Of course they want new techs to consider their tools and there is no better way than to put them in their hands. Even with discounts as deep as they offer, becoming a technician is an expensive career path. The more we can come up with ways to outfit new techs, the better chance we have of attracting them away from the copier repair business.
Last fall a visionary husband and wife team decided they should do more for the industries up and coming techs. Originally Alex and Zach Parker of Redline Detection came from outside the automotive industry. Zach told me he wanted to start a program that would encourage other businesses to recognize young techs that are not only striving to be good at their job but also demonstrate leadership and community service.
They created the Redline Rockstar Performance Award as a way to recognize these techs. An advisory panel of industry and education types were given a choice of exemplary technicians to pare down from several hundred to one. This year they chose Christian Opfer, ASE Certified Master Tech of SK Motorsport in Bellingham, Wash. Christian will receive prizes and cash worth $2,500 from Redline Detection.
While the money is cool in the short run what do you suppose the effect is on the young man and those around him long term? As technical types we often have a hard time recognizing people on their way to achieving success because they are not there yet.
I commend all of the folks who are helping to recognize and encourage talent as it evolves. What makes us great is when people want to be like us.
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