America’s auto dealerships are facing a crisis in the shortage of experienced automotive service technicians, and the National Automobile Dealers Association is doing something about it. I’m proud to announce that this year the NADA Foundation is the first in the industry to officially launch a workforce initiative with the goal of promoting the value of dealership jobs, especially service technicians, in the retail auto and commercial truck industry.
Dealerships nationwide provide more than 1.2 million jobs in sales, management and service. Service departments are especially critical now, when thousands of cars and trucks are still in need of repairs following recalls and scheduled maintenance and warranty.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 750,000 auto techs are currently employed in the auto industry; new-car dealerships alone employ around 317,000 service techs. And an estimated 250,000 diesel technicians work in the trucking industry.
Our industry needs close to 76,000 more technicians per year through 2026 to fill anticipated job openings. A lack of dealership workers means that thousands of well-paying local jobs remain unfilled, and we will have difficulty getting the necessary people – with the necessary skill sets – to service vehicles on the road. Ultimately, this can harm the financial health of our Main Street stores, and harm our ability to provide our customers with the best service possible. The future of the auto business rests in the employees who work with us day-in and day-out, so NADA has made this a top priority.
We have developed the NADA Foundation’s workforce initiative over the past two years, after we identified a great need to harmonize efforts of automakers, training centers and dealerships, especially when it comes to recruiting technicians. We learned there was very little brand-neutral information on training centers, and it is incredibly difficult for a prospective technician to find clear information on how to gain training and certification. This challenge also poses a hindrance to many women who may be seeking a job in the tech world.
Ultimately, we realized that one of our first jobs was to unite the industry – dealerships, OEMs and allied industry – behind one effort to effectively tackle this crisis. We know that as many as half of the seats in OEM training programs – like Ford’s Asset program or Toyota’s T-10 program – go unfilled each year. These programs are direct feeders into dealerships, and one of our goals is to fill those programs to capacity.
During my incoming remarks last Saturday at NADA Show 2019 in San Francisco, I proudly introduced this great initiative to our members. Our efforts include a new NADA Foundation website—NADAFoundation.org—with the first map of all ASE-certified training facilities nationwide. The website also features videos with real technicians talking about their work and lifestyles, and digital and social media content—all focused on the goal of promoting the important work of dealership jobs and their value to local communities. We’ve also created a brochure that any dealership or state association can make their own by adding their logo.
NADA will also reach out to key audiences such as high school guidance counselors, community college administrators and military separation officers. Our fundraising has already gained traction among dealers and OEMs, with sponsors including Porsche, Toyota, PACCAR and the National Auto Auction Association. If you would like to donate to this cause, text the word “donate” to 202.831.8054.
I believe in this industry and I believe in the passion we have to make it better. After all, we are all one NADA. I’m optimistic that these efforts will narrow the work gap at our dealerships and help more people take advantage of the well-paying careers that dealerships offer.
Gilchrist is president of Gilchrist Automotive in the greater Dallas-Fort Worth.