Investing In Future Generations
Jan. 28, 2021— I’ve been with National Oil and Lube News for three weeks now. And it hasn’t taken me very long to notice one of the biggest worries shop owners have about the industry.
It’s finding new, young, prepared employees.
At the end of every interview I have with a shop owner, I ask some version of, “What else are you paying attention to in the industry?” Without fail, the lack of prepared talent is always brought up.
Everyone has their different ideas for exactly why it’s happening. Whether it’s high schools cutting automotive programs or a generation less willing to get their hands dirty, the effects are clear and it’s causing anxiety across the industry.
For the quick lube business, the struggle is to keep employees. Often the techs aren’t sufficiently skilled, causing high rates of turnover.
So what are shop owners to do? Just hope to come across a skilled employee that you can keep for a long time?
Make your own investment
Although I’ve only been here a short time, I’ve already learned of and met several people who are taking it upon themselves to help move the industry forward, whether that’s through apprenticeships or simply getting young adults aware of the industry.
Jeff Baker, owner of Local Wrench, a repair shop in Belfair, Wa., that also does oil changes and other quick maintenance, spent the summer and fall giving field trips to local youth in his area.
While a big part of the goal was to get the youth out of their houses during COVID-19, Baker also felt he needed to do something to get young people interested in automotive work. He doesn’t expect the students to become technicians just because of the visit, but it’s about planting a seed in their minds. He remembers his dad putting tools in his hand from a young age. He also took plenty of automotive classes in high school. Those things aren’t happening in his community anymore.
“I think we’re going to have a huge shortage in this generation that will handle tools... that will do trade type of work,” he says. “We can only care about ourselves, our retirement and getting out of the business, or we can sow the seeds and try to plant these seeds so that something bigger can happen for the people that succeed us and buy our businesses.”
Larry Witherspoon — recently featured in NOLN’s January issue — began the Automotive Training Center, which helps train at-risk youth to become entry-level technicians and have a fresh start. Over the past six years, the center has trained 151 students and 80 percent of the graduates have been placed in full-time, entry-level positions. Read the full story about Witherspoon and the Automotive Training Center here. Also, look out for a podcast soon with Witherspoon detailing how he’s gotten young people interested in the work.
Now you don’t need to make it your life’s work or even your full-time job like it is for Witherspoon. It can be as simple as familiarizing young people with the work, like Baker, or taking on an apprentice to learn from your technicians. But investing in the next generation is going to be pivotal. Any step you take is advantageous for your business… and for the rest of the industry.