When most people think about a career as an auto technician, they might envision having a wrench in hand, rotating tires, changing oil and other perceived greasy tasks. While this might have been the case until a decade or so ago, fixed ops careers have evolved significantly.
Vehicles today include sensors, computers and other advanced technology, meaning fixed ops roles require much different skills than they did in the past. Roughly 80 percent of repairs today are electrical, requiring technical troubleshooting having to do with sensors and emissions-control systems.
While some traditional responsibilities like vehicle tune-ups are still conducted by service technicians, it’s important for your dealership to adapt to the evolved role to attract quality applicants for your service department. Here are some tips to get started:
Highlight Career Opportunities in Your Employment Materials
To attract more qualified talent to your open fixed ops roles, make it clear in all of your employment materials that you’re looking for employees who have the skills — or are interested in learning the skills — to diagnose and repair modern vehicles. In all employment brand materials — including your career site and job descriptions — you should highlight how working as a service technician is a much more skilled job than most might think. In fact, today’s service technicians have such advanced skills that one dealer compared the role to a computer engineer — meaning prospective employees are also attractive to employers in other industries.
Given the necessary, and continuously evolving, technical skills involved, a career as an automotive service technician offers job seekers with a passion for computers and technology a great opportunity — with less required education than related roles in other industries. While it might take four or six years of education to become a computer engineer, auto technician roles typically only require about two years of education, along with continued on-the-job training. Auto technicians have endless opportunities for advancement — take AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson for example, who started his career as a technician and leads the largest dealership group in the U.S. In your job descriptions and on your career site, make sure to highlight career paths and growth opportunities so prospective job applicants can see everything working at your dealership has to offer.
Offer Continuous Training
To succeed in their roles, stay up to date on the latest vehicle technology and continue driving profitability to your dealership, your fixed ops team needs continuous training. This can be as simple as video training, which enables your employees to watch videos on their own time while saving money on traveling to outside training sessions. Other options include interactive web-based classes, training sessions offered directly by your dealership and training offered by representatives from car manufacturers. No matter the option your dealership chooses, make sure the latest vehicles are accessible to your fixed ops team so they can have hands-on training to understand fully how the latest technology works.
Set Aside Budget for Tuition Reimbursement
Other than training offered directly through your dealership, another way to ensure your technicians are up to speed on the latest vehicle updates is by offering tuition reimbursement for outside training and certification. For example, Universal Technical Institute, a nationwide provider of technical education, continuously updates its programs and courses to focus on the latest technology. It also offers specializations for specific manufacturers, such as Ford, Mercedes and Nissan. If a member of your fixed ops team approaches you about taking a course from Universal Technical Institute or a related education provider, and it’s clear the course will help the technician improve in his or her role, consider offering some form of tuition reimbursement.
In addition to outside education providers, some automakers also offer continuous training to service technicians. BMW, for example, has five national training centers and a dedicated Service Technician Education Program, also known as STEP. Through STEP, most automotive service technician students don’t pay tuition, as it’s covered by the dealerships who hire them. While traditional training is part of the program — such as how to complete engine and transmission repairs — 90 percent of the training program focuses on electronic and computerized systems. Even though much of this training is designed for entry-level service technicians, veteran techs are also given frequent training for specialized repairs that come with new technology. This training provides all technicians with fundamental skills and an understanding of the latest vehicle technology. If your dealership offers tuition reimbursement for this or a similar, formal training program, you can attract more skilled technicians and ensure employees you already have on staff are doing the best work possible.
The retail automotive industry is facing a significant shortage of skilled service technicians. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates an average of 76,000 mechanics are needed each year from now until 2026 to replace those retiring or leaving the industry and to fill some 46,000 projected new openings. By understanding how fixed ops roles have evolved and putting measures in place to hire and train technicians who have the necessary skills to repair modern vehicles, you can set your dealership fixed ops department up for success in the long haul.