As dealerships gradually reopen following stay-at-home orders due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, dealers face a variety of challenges with getting back up and running – one of which is attracting and hiring auto technicians. 
While many dealership service departments remained open in recent months, as they were deemed essential businesses, they’re now facing a significant backlog of service appointments from customers who put off needed service. As a result, dealers across the country are focused on hiring auto technicians to meet increased demand for services. 
Prior to the pandemic, the retail automotive industry already faced a shortage of auto technicians. In 2019, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that 46,000 automotive service technicians and mechanics will be needed to fill roles through 2026. However, at the time, over  50 percent of auto technician openings remained unfilled, which could lead to a shortage of  25,000 qualified auto technicians in the coming years.  
Some challenges dealers have faced in recent years with hiring auto technicians include: baby boomers retiring at a rapid pace, limited job seeker interest in auto technicians careers and (at the time), historically low unemployment. 
As a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, unemployment has spiked, from a historically-low 3.5 percent in March, to 13.3 percent as of the May jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While many of those facing unemployment are eager to get back to work, one challenge dealers face when it comes to hiring auto technicians – and filling other roles – is that over half of the individuals left unemployed by COVID-19 closures stand to earn more money on unemployment than they do when fully employed. 
The $600 a week unemployment bonus isn’t going to be in place indefinitely and as unemployed or furloughed workers start looking for their next job opportunities, your team needs to excite job seekers about the opportunities your auto technician roles present. Below, we’ve outlined a few tips to attract motivated auto technicians who will help you catch up on service appointments and drive success on your team for the long haul.  

Excite tech-savvy job seekers about auto technician roles 

Many job seekers unfortunately have the misconception that a career as an auto technician simply means changing oil and tires and other “wrench turning” tasks.

While some traditional auto technician responsibilities – such as oil changes and tune ups – are still required, service department roles have rapidly evolved in recent years and it’s important for your dealership to make this clear when you’re hiring auto technicians and training new team members. 
With the advanced technology in newer car models, key tasks of auto technicians can include repairing sensors, computers, high-tech engines and other technology found in most new vehicles today. Rather than poking around car engines to determine what needs to be fixed, technicians tend to use computerized diagnostic equipment. As a result, instead of taking hours to diagnose what needs to be fixed, it can take as little as 30 minutes – giving service technicians more time to focus on repairing cars, which can help your team more easily catch up on backlogged service appointments in light of the pandemic. 
At least one dealer has even compared automotive technician hiring to computer engineer hiring. Since the role requires skills and knowledge similar to computer engineers, your dealership needs to outline this on your career site and in job descriptions – both to attract auto technicians from other dealerships and from outside the industry. With millions of job seekers now on the market, now is your dealership’s prime opportunity to engage talent from outside retail automotive who might not have otherwise considered working at a dealership. 
With the right strategy in place for hiring auto technicians, you can excite motivated job seekers who might have otherwise considered roles as computer engineers. An auto technician career offers job seekers with a passion for computers and technology a great opportunity – with less required education than similar roles outside the automotive industry. 
While it might take four or six years of education to become a traditional computer engineer, auto technician roles typically only require about two years of education, along with continued on the job training, which can help your dealership attract tech-savvy job seekers who want to jump start their careers as soon as possible

Offer training and career growth opportunities 

Another misconception that many job seekers have about auto technician roles is that there’s limited room for career growth. In addition to highlighting how your service department roles have evolved in your job descriptions and on your career site, share what your dealership has  to offer in terms of career paths and training to help employees reach their goals. Today’s top talent is looking for more than just their next role, but rather the opportunity to grow their careers long-term with the right employer.
Many job seekers might not have a full grasp of the growth opportunities a career as an auto technician offers. Going above and beyond entry-level technician roles, many technicians have grown to hold management and leadership roles at dealerships. For example, AutoNation CEO, Mike Jackson, started his career as a technician for a Mercedes-Benz Dealership. He then went  on to serve as president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA, overseeing U.S. sales operation and 311 franchised dealerships before joining AutoNation
On your career site, highlight any possible career paths for auto technicians and any other relevant roles at your dealership. Also consider sharing employee success stories about auto technicians who have risen through the ranks at your dealership. 
Defined career paths can get prospective applicants who are researching roles online excited about the long-term career opportunities at your dealership beyond entry-level service roles. And seeing these career growth opportunities can also encourage individuals who are currently receiving unemployment benefits and hesitant to rejoin the workforce to consider roles on your team. 
For your automotive technician hiring to be successful, your team needs to set employees up with the resources they need to grow in their careers. In your job descriptions and on your career site, let prospective applicants know about your commitment to ongoing employee training.
When you hire automotive technicians, you can offer initial training during onboarding to help them hit the ground running, and set aside funds for continued education. As vehicle technology continues to become more sophisticated, continued training is important to both employee career growth and the overall success of your service department.
Challenges associated with hiring auto technicians show no signs of slowing down, so it’s important for your team to have a strategy in place to attract top talent who will help drive success for your dealership both as you fully reopen and for the long haul. For additional tips on exciting motivated job seekers about  joining your  dealership team, read our Career Site Playbook