Between record low unemployment rates, Baby Boomers retiring at a rapid pace and fewer young job seekers interested in dealership careers, dealerships across the country are facing challenges with keeping fixed ops departments fully staffed. But with the added challenge of declining new vehicle profit margins, dealerships need ensure they’re fully staffed to turn their fixed ops department into a profit center.
One way to attract quality fixed ops talent is to start recruiting early. Many high school students are unsure of their career paths and in the process of deciding whether or not to go to college so this age is an ideal time for your dealership to get in front of students and encourage a fixed ops career. We’ve pulled together a few ways for you to do so below.
Subsidize High School Auto Shop Classes
In recent years, the number of high school auto shop classes in the U.S. has been on a steep decline. Much of this can be attributed to many school districts across the country no longer requiring vocational classes – such as auto shop and home economics – in favor for classes that prepare students for college. As a result, auto shop classes and related programs are facing severe budget cuts. For example, following an increased focus on college prep classes in the state of California, the Los Angeles Unified School District has already eliminated more than 90% of its auto shop classes.
With fewer students taking auto shop classes in high school, chances are not as many students will have fixed ops careers top-of-mind once they reach graduation. But your dealership has an opportunity to offer local high schools financial assistance to keep shop classes up and running. In the Los Angeles School District where auto shop classes have been dramatically cut, the Greater Los Angeles New Car Dealers Association has donated $35,000 to a local charter school’s auto shop classes in the past two years. By doing something similar with local schools close to your dealership, this can help you line up a pipeline of fixed ops talent for a few years down on the road, and it can help high school students learn about a viable career path that doesn’t require a four year college degree.
Offer Shadowing and Internship Opportunities
If you know of any local high school or technical school students who are on the fence about pursuing a fixed ops career, consider offering students the chance to shadow your fixed ops staff for a day, or take it a step further and offer internships to strong students. Through job shadowing, students can see what life is really like at a dealership, which can get them excited about one day joining your team.
As reported in Automotive News, the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association has started offering internships to local talent. The association partners with Lincoln Technical Institute, a network of private, for-profit career training schools. Through the partnership, about 500 students are enrolled in the 13-month auto technology program at the New York center. And students who perform well in the program are offered internships at dealerships, meaning the partnership with Lincoln Technical Institute serves as a built-in recruiter. If your dealership takes a similar approach, you can secure top talent before they even graduate school.
Cover Tech Training Tuition for Talented Students
Leading up to high school graduation, you can continue encouraging fixed ops career paths by offering tuition assistance to top talent. At the same Los Angeles charter school mentioned above, local dealership Bob Smith Toyota offers to pay tuition for motivated and talented students to enroll in the Toyota T-TEN Tech Training Program at nearby Citrus College. Subsidizing tuition has been a win-win for the dealership, as Toyota has secured many talented fixed ops employees from the program and the program offers students fruitful career prospects.
If your dealership is struggling to attract quality fixed ops staff, consider looking into service technician training programs at community colleges and technical schools to see if there’s any way you can help cover tuition costs for strong students.
The fixed ops talent shortage shows no signs of slowing down and encouraging high school students to pursue dealership careers is one of many ways to overcome hiring challenges. To learn more about staffing up your service department, download our eBook, “5 Tools to Attract and Hire Quality Fixed Ops Staff.”