Encouraging Young Women into the Industry
The tech shortage is no surprise to most of the auto repair industry. With the ongoing shortage of people trained and skilled in auto repair technology, WE CARE was founded by a number of female automotive professionals to raise awareness of the auto repair industry as a viable career path for women, as well as men.
Lynnetta Rogers, owner of 2nd-to-None-Service in Moriarty, N.M., and one of the board’s founding members, recently discussed the goals of the group and how the group plans to tackle the technician shortage.
How did the WE CARE board come about? What is the board’s goal?
At the spring Management Success! convention this year, several of us women were talking and we found we were all having the same problem: Recruiting technicians into this industry. It is a nationwide problem. We decided we needed to help with this and broaden the scope of the industry to find new recruits. Our big question is: How do we go about enticing people to become techs, parts managers, service techs, general managers?
The women in this group are very motivated and so we’ve chosen to create a board with the intention to help find these technicians to solve the problem with recruiting for the industry. Since the spring, we’ve created our website and Facebook and now we’re working on pamphlets, blogs and advertising to get out there.
We are also going to career fairs and talking to students in high school and colleges. We want to get the word out that this industry is viable to work in, not only for men, but also for women.
All of us have women in our shops, so we’re asking those women to create an article or blog for us stating why they chose that path and why that path would be a good choice for other women, too.
Our members are located across the country. That way we can hit the whole U.S. and we’re not located in one area. We can collaborate and share information and help place technicians more effectively where jobs exist.
What is the message you think the industry needs to send to young women?
This industry is never thought of as an industry for other women. We have to recruit from somewhere and women are 50 percent of the population, so why not recruit from that? When you think tech, you think grease and grime. But actually, nowadays with the technology and computers in these cars, you don’t have to get dirty. You can be a highly intelligent person who can use the computer diagnostic software and find out what’s going on with these vehicles.
We’ve found that women make wonderful service writers because they don’t think technical and neither does the customer. They are able to communicate more easily with the customer. Women have the edge when it comes to the front office work.
For a young woman coming into the industry, there is so much possibility. Each one of these job openings is very viable for a woman. Especially for a single mom, it would be an awesome career choice. The hours are flexible and most of the automotive industry will work around your child and your kid.
Another reason this is a viable industry is that it’s very stable. Even with the economy, although a lot of shops went out of business, that’s because they were poorly run. I know group members that started their business during the recession and they’ve grown every year.
People need their cars and are going to continue driving their cars. The industry is going to be around for a long time. It’s a service that people need. If people don’t have expendable income, they still need to get their cars fixed. You’ll stay home and not eat out before you go without your car. You also get a good feeling by providing a service people need.
Finally, the pay is very good and there are very good bonuses. Not everyone can, wants to, or can afford to go to college. That’s perfectly fine. There are ways to make a living without going to college.
What do shop owners need to be doing to attract the younger generation to this industry?
What I would tell other shop owners is “get on the bandwagon.” If you want to be around in 10 to 20 years, you need to do this. I put out feelers wherever I can.
That’s my intention and the intentions of others in this group, and it should be the intention of every auto shop owner, to change the image of the industry. I think it is changing in a lot of people’s minds, but it’s not changing fast enough and we’re missing out because a lot of young people aren’t seeing this as a viable industry. Everyone misses out. There’s always a need for good people. Nobody’s parents encourage them to get in the automotive industry, sadly.
One, I think the industry is becoming more women friendly. More women are the decision makers. By just making the shop woman friendly, you will entice a woman to look at that as a career path. Having more women in the shop changes the atmosphere.
In my shop, I notice that it softens and changes the dynamic of the shop. It’s something that most consumers appreciate. We all know that auto repair can be scary for a lot of people. Having that softer atmosphere in the office and shifting the image is really important.
We also need to think outside the box. Especially nowadays in this new computer age, why can’t we advertise and promote to these tech kids that we have an industry full of technology?
Finally, we also need to look inwards. What I work to do is shift the image of the grease monkey to highly qualified techs inside my shop. We’re smart, clean and like doctors. To shift that will take a leader who has that vision and shares it with the team in such a way that they understand it and agree with it.
Having self respect and pride in the industry is what I do in my shop. I nurture that pride because what we do is not something that everybody can do.
What are the group’s future plans?
I see this group continuing to grow bigger with more members attending more career fairs. Even in high school, you’re finding fewer and fewer auto shop classes. We need to get into those schools and talk to counselors and tell them that this is a very lucrative industry to promote. I definitely see all the women coming together as a group and getting out there and promoting this as an option for women and men.
I’ve also contacted the Be Car Care Aware board and we’re talking with them trying to affiliate with them. The more we get out there, the better our chances are.