While overall employment at U.S. franchised new-car and -truck dealerships continues to rise, dealers say they are still having a hard time finding and hiring service technicians.
“We could hire 20 to 30 auto techs immediately. Every store needs techs,” said Charlie Gilchrist, chairman of the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA). “Every dealer I talk to is in the same situation. The industry is facing a critical shortage of service technicians.”
About 39,000 new service techs graduate from U.S. career technical colleges and training programs each year. Yet the industry needs to replace nearly 76,000 techs each year to keep up with retirements and new job demand. That’s leaves an annual shortfall of about 37,000 trained techs, NADA estimates.
“Our biggest focus right now is recruiting and training people,” said Gilchrist, president of Gilchrist Automotive, which includes Buick-Chevrolet-GMC, Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram, Ford, Nissan and Volkswagen franchises at five dealership locations in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. “Dealer involvement is critical. Dealers need to get involved with the recruiting and hiring process to make this work.”
At Gilchrist’s Ford dealership in Weatherford, Texas, students from the local high school’s automotive technology program are offered internships where they shadow full-time techs and observe the day-to-day service work being performed.
“Candidates that show an interest in the profession are then encouraged to consider to a full-time position after they graduate from high school and follow a career path that includes full certification from the manufacturer,” Gilchrist added.
Gilchrist’s service director also serves on the high school’s advisory board to work with instructors and administrators to implement programs and policies that best prepare its graduates for real-world employment opportunities.
For Jodie Teuton, chairwoman of the American Truck Dealers (ATD), the service technician shortage at her eight commercial-truck dealership locations in Louisiana has become so acute that she hired a full-time recruiting and training manager to fill vacant positions.
“Our goal this year is to hire an additional 51 service techs from all tier levels,” said Teuton, vice president of Kenworth of Louisiana, a full-service dealership with locations in Baton Rouge, Houma, Lafayette, Lake Charles, Monroe, New Orleans and Shreveport, and full-service Hino dealerships in Baton Rouge and Monroe. “That includes hiring master techs and others with varying levels of expertise to keep up with current and anticipated demand.”
To spark interest in service technician careers at automotive and commercial-truck dealerships, the NADA Foundation in January 2019 rolled out a new multi-faceted Workforce Initiative, which includes a new website, nadafoundation.org, and videos featuring technicians highlighting what they like about their careers.
An immediate goal of the initiative – which is gaining financial support from across the entire industry – is to fill OEM technician training programs to capacity. To help accomplish that, the NADA Foundation website includes the first and only interactive U.S. map of training and scholarship opportunities available to aspiring technicians.
“This can be a great career path that does not require a four-year college degree. It's important to realize that in most cases upon completion of a reputable training program, potential employers will be ready to hire them immediately,” Teuton added. “We believe in growing our employees from within, and we give them all the tools necessary to continue their development.”
So far, the NADA Foundation has received a $100,000 donation from Toyota Motor North America; $50,000 from PACCAR (Kenworth and Peterbilt); $50,000 from the National Auto Auction Association; and $25,000 from Porsche Cars North America.
For more information, visit nadafoundation.org.