Can You Hear the Beating of the Distant Drums? - Aftermarket
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Can You Hear the Beating of the Distant Drums?

By Ron Slee

Article Date: 09-01-2010
Copyright(C) 2010 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.

We are heading toward another shortage of technicians, but you can easily shield your company from any ill effects.

Last month I talked about the issue of education, and while the direction over the past 50 years has been to push a university degree, there are signs of this having been too much of a push in one direction. University is an important element in the overall education package a country provides to its citizens. But it is far from the only element, and I believe we have gone too far in that one direction.
Bring on the trade schools for specific skills.
I have been very fortunate during my career to have traveled and worked with people all around the world. It is a wonderful way to see new things and methods and be exposed to differing ways of thinking.
One of my first international trips was in 1973 when I was sent to Europe for two weeks to look at warehouses and distribution centers. Well, the dealer principal where I was working thought that Europe had a shortage of space and a shortage of labor; that we better pay attention to that and design facilities and systems knowing that space and people skills were both going to be at a premium over the life of facilities we were planning to build. He was right. So we went outside of our comfort zone and tried to learn from others who were experiencing the things that we thought we would be experiencing in the future.
I believe we can use this type of thinking more today than nearly any other time of my life. Europe has a population demographic that have more older people and fewer younger people than we do. How are they going to handle their medical and pension obligations? We should be able to learn something from them. The developing countries are pushing educational ability almost above all else. All you have to do is look at India, which has more college graduates under the age of 25 than the total U.S. workforce. Do you now begin to believe that there will be serious pressures on certain wages?
But let’s return to the trade school and that beating drum. There are shortages of mechanics again in the country. Imagine that – the only business unit of a dealership with which a dealer can differentiate itself and we are back to the age-old problem. We have a shortage of technicians. Aren’t we all getting a little tired of this sorry old tale? I know I am.
There are plenty of technicians. We don’t pay them properly. We don’t provide them with the technology that is current and will excite them about their jobs. We don’t provide leadership and management in our service departments with professional managers, but instead provide supervision by people we have promoted from mechanical jobs.
We need management and leadership skills, not technical skills in our service managers of the 21st century.
We also need to strike a relationship with the trade schools. When I was starting out, the dealership I worked at used to provide teachers to the trade schools at no cost. No, it wasn’t a full-time thing; just occasionally. But it was a wonderful thing to do. We got to see the students in the classroom and were able to determine who the stars were and who we wanted to hire. We wanted to be able to hire the best of the best. And we did.
So where are you now? Still short of technicians?
Go visit your technical schools. Now.
Ask how you can help them. Now.
Provide materials and components, and, yes, teaching hours. Now.

Take the students on tours of your facilities. Now.
Implement inspection programs and segmentation work orders. Now.
Move to standard job times and flat rates. Now.
We have been dilly dallying around way too long.
Obtain, train and implement the new technology tools I have been talking about since the springtime. The new technicians do not expect to be working the old way; if you are not current they will either not join you or leave you very quickly. This is their life, don’t forget.
Nike’s slogan is wonderful: Just Do It. Shouldn’t we get with it? The market and the technicians are not going to wait forever. Now is the time to Just Do It. You will be glad you did. I promise.

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